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Sri Lanka takes concrete steps to bond with India and restrain China

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris in New Delhi (Photo: MEA/Twitter)

India and Sri Lanka plan to strengthen their economic and development relations in order to support the island nation during its economic crisis.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris on a three-day visit to India held talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on a range of bilateral issues. Taking to Twitter, Jaishankar said: "Productive talks with Sri Lankan FM G.L. Peiris. Discussed economic and investment initiatives that will strengthen Sri Lanka at this time. Also focused on additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security".

Peiris said that Sri Lanka will not allow any harm to come to Indian interests because of its economic and foreign exchange crisis. India has on many occasions shared its concern with Colombo about Chinese investments and activities in the island nations, the latest being Beijing's overtures to Tamils in the northern parts of Sri Lanka.

Peiris, however, allayed Indian fears over China and said that Colombo has elevated relations between the two South Asian neighbours. As an example he highlighted the Trincomalee oil tank deal and the deal with the Adani group over the development of the Western Container Terminal.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that India is according priority to Sri Lanka under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision and the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

Jaishankar also emphasised on enhancing air and sea connectivity between the two countries to reinforce tourism and people-to-people connect. He highlighted India's support to Sri Lanka through economic and investment initiatives, promising to take additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security.

On the prickly issue over relations with the Tamils, Jaishankar reinforced that Sri Lanka’s interests are best served by ensuring equality, justice, peace and respect for the Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka. He again emphasises on the devolution of power to address lingering issues with the community.

The two countries also decided to tackle the issue of fishermen by setting up the Joint Working Group on Fisheries and adopting a humanitarian approach while resolving India-Sri Lanka maritime boundary issues.

Peiris expressed gratitude for India’s assistance and highlighted the steps taken by his country on human rights issues and reconciliation with communities. Jaishankar and Peiris also decided to extend cooperation in regional platforms like BIMSTEC and the Colombo Security Conclave.

Peiris also met with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla during his visit.

The two countries have exchanged high profile visits over the last few months in a bid to cement economic, military and developmental ties.