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Sri Lanka, India and Maldives agree to strengthen cooperation in dealing with maritime challenges



Agreement was reached on further strengthening cooperation in dealing with maritime challenges in the Indian ocean and ensure peace and security in the region for common benefit, at the trilateral 4th National Security Adviser level meeting on ‘Maritime Security Cooperation’, which concluded at the Colombo Hotel Taj Samudra on Saturday (28).

The sessions were held with the participation of Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser of India, Ms. Mariya Didi, Minister of Defence of Maldives and Maj. Gen. (retd) Kamal Gunaratne, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardena, was the chief guest at the inauguration.

The High Commissioner of India, Ambassador for the Maldives, Foreign Ministry Secretary Admiral (retd) Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army and Head of the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID 19 Outbreak, Navy and Air Force Commanders, Inspector General of Police, Director-General of Sri Lanka Coast Guard, senior officials of Sri Lankan Foreign and Defence Ministries and senior military officers were among the attendees.

Several experts in the field of maritime defence from India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, together with observers from Mauritius and Seychelles, India and the Maldives were represented during the sessions at Senior Officials’ level.

The forum, fourth in sequence, took stock of the current maritime security environment in the region and the existing cooperation in the areas of Maritime Domain Awareness, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, Joint Exercises, Capacity Building, Maritime Security and Threats, Marine Pollution and Maritime Underwater Heritage, Covid-19 challenges, etc. They agreed to further strengthen cooperation in dealing with these challenges to ensure peace and security in the region for common benefit, a joint media statement issued by the Defence Ministry said.

Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne, delivering the welcome address, underlined the momentous importance of dialogue at trilateral level on a regular basis. The Minister of Foreign Affairs made the keynote address before the sessions began deliberations. Lalith Weeratunga, Advisor to the President made the closing remarks.

In view of COVID-19, the dialogue was conducted adhering to strict health guidelines using ‘Air Bubble’ concept for the visiting delegations, the statement noted.

Sri Lanka, India and Maldives launched the Trilateral NSA level Meeting on Maritime Security Cooperation in 2011 and three meetings had been held so far. The last meeting was held in March 2014 in New Delhi. The past deliberations and outcomes have helped the three countries in improving close coordination in maritime security of the region. These were supplemented by Deputy NSA level meetings for sustained engagements and implementation of the discussions at the NSA level meetings.

The three countries also exchanged views on common security threats and agreed to broad base cooperation by expanding the scope to improve intelligence sharing and include issues like terrorism, radicalization, extremism, drugs, arms and human trafficking, money laundering, cyber security and effect of climate change on maritime environment, the statement further said.

The Heads of Delegations agreed to meet regularly to share, discuss and ensure timely implementation of decisions taken at the Meeting. They also decided to hold Deputy NSA level working group meetings biannually for cooperation at operational level, it added.

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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters




(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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Foreign News

US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China




US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF



Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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