Indo-Lanka relations reaching zenith
India’s relations with Sri Lanka have reached “an unprecedented level
of depth and quality today”, said Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar
Menon at his meeting with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama
yesterday, during his two-day visit to the island.
The Foreign Secretary observed that it is during difficult times that
the true quality of a friendship becomes most evident, and that the
Indo-Lanka relationship is one such friendship that has effectively
withstood the test of time and adversity.
Minister Bogollagama welcomed Menon to Sri Lanka, and indicated that
this visit is a reflection of India’s steadfast friendship with Sri
Lanka as well as the maturity of the Indo-Lanka relationship.
The Minister extended the appreciation of the Sri Lankan Government
for the continued understanding of India on issues of mutual concern.
Reiterating that the Sri Lankan Government perceives the Indo-Lanka
Accord as the key to seeking a political solution to the conflict, the
Minister observed that the present juncture offers a window of
opportunity to implement the Accord, given the decisive victories gained
by the Government in combating LTTE terror on all fronts.
He observed that the government is in the process of exploring
several avenues of implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The Minister highlighted the Government’s sincere commitment to
evolving a broad-based and an inclusive peace process in order to
achieve a durable peace, acceptable to all communities.
Foreign Secretary Menon expressed his appreciation of the sentiments
expressed by Minister Bogollagama on the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th
Amendment to the Constitution.
Minister Bogollagama and Secretary Menon agreed that a moment of
political opportunity has been made available to Sri Lanka today to
bring about an inclusive peace process with credible political
representation by the Tamil people within the country’s democratic
Bogollagama thanked the Indian government for the humanitarian
assistance extended during this period to further augment the steps
being taken by the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the welfare of
civilians in northern Sri Lanka. He welcomed continued humanitarian
assistance by India to the affected people.
Secretary Menon extended his appreciation of the proactive role
played by Sri Lanka both multilaterally and in the regional context in
combating terrorism, and extended the unstinted support of the Indian
government in this exercise.
Menon briefed Minister Bogollagama on the current status of the
investigation on the Mumbai terror attacks and indicated that India
would continue to work closely with Pakistan to bring the perpetrators
of this heinous crime to justice.
He emphasised that concerted and collective international action is
needed in combating the scourge of trans-national terror.
Minister Bogollagama, indicated that as a country that has itself
been the victim of terror which had proliferated with international
links and support, Sri Lanka is well placed to understand the gravity of
the threat of trans-national terrorism.
He reiterated Sri Lanka’s support in combating terror at every level
to secure a sustainable peace within the region.
The Minister also reiterated Sri Lanka’s interest in cooperating with
India on maritime security in the Indian Ocean, both bilaterally and
within the framework of regional groupings such as BIMSTEC.
Minister Bogollagama expressed the Sri Lankan Government’s
satisfaction at the increase in bilateral trade within the framework of
the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement, and expressed the government’s
desire to work closely with India in upgrading the bilateral FTA to a
Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in the foreseeable future.
The discussions also referred to the need to address Sri Lanka’s
widening trade deficit with India in a meaningful manner.
The two sides discussed the Indo-Lanka Joint Commission which last
met in 2005, and agreed to look at the possibility of convening the
forthcoming session of the Joint Commission after May 2009. It was
agreed to convene the sub-committees of the Joint Commission in the
On the delimitation of the outer edge of the Indo-Lanka continental
margin, the two sides agreed to further discuss attendant legal issues,
and work closely in resolving outstanding issues, in a manner reflective
of the close friendship existing between the two countries.
The two sides discussed the progress within SAARC, including issues
concerning the Standing Committee and the Council of Ministers sessions
due to take place in Colombo.
The Minister observed that he looks forward to a successful outcome
at the SAARC Council of Ministers Meeting that would bring on board many
issues that concern the region. Secretary Menon pledged the fullest
support of the Indian government to SAARC and observed that it looked
forward to playing a constructive role in the forthcoming Council of
Minister Bogollagama expressed his appreciation of the role played by
the Indian government in releasing Sri Lankan fishermen captured in the
Indian waters, and for providing them with safe passage.