- Foreign Office Consultations between the Governments of Sri Lanka and India were held on 2nd May 2005 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Indian delegation to these talks was led by His Excellency Mr. Shyam Saran, Foreign Secretary of India and the Sri Lanka delegation was led by His Excellency Mr. S. Palihakkara, Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka.
- During his visit Mr Shyam Saran also called on Their Excellencies, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka and met other senior Sri Lankan leaders. A wide range of issues were discussed in a warm and friendly atmosphere reflecting the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries.
- It was decided to begin preparatory work for the sixth meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission co-chaired by Their Excellencies the External Affairs Minster of India and the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka scheduled to be held in Colombo in June 2005.
- Bilateral trade and economic cooperation and implementation of the Free Trade Agreement were reviewed. It was noted with satisfaction that the bilateral trade between the two countries has increased to approximately US$ 1.8 billion in 2004 and that the trade imbalance has narrowed significantly. It was also noted that the CEPA negotiating process had commenced and that the Commerce Secretaries of India and Sri Lanka had met in New Delhi in February 2005. The process is proceeding satisfactorily and the technical working and sub-groups would be meeting in Colombo from 5th – 7th May 2005.
- Indian participation in post Tsunami reconstruction efforts was discussed and Foreign Secretary Saran announced a debt moratorium of three years on repayment of Sri Lankan debt to India. He also announced a number of Indian assistance measures including a series of workshops on low-cost rebuilding of houses to be conducted by Indian experts and a capacity-building exercise in management of disasters and post-disaster scenarios. It was also agreed that India would consider participation in Tsunami affected Colombo-Matara railway line reconstruction.
- Investment in various sectors including power and energy, transport and the proposed ferry service were discussed and it was noted that the National Thermal Power Corporation of India would be submitting a detailed Project Report on a 300 MW Power Plant in May 2005, following detailed discussions with Sri Lankan authorities. It was also announced that, following a Sri Lankan request, a team of experts from the National Highways Authority of India would visit Sri Lanka to assess Indian participation in a highway project. The utilization of four Indian Lines of Credit amounting to US$ 381 million was also discussed including Sri Lanka’s request to import passenger buses under one of the Lines of Credit.
- It was noted that the first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Fisheries (JWG) that was constituted following President Kumaratunga’s visit to India in November 2004 with the mandate of dealing with issues relating to straying fishermen, working out modalities for prevention of use of force against them and the early release of confiscated boats, and exploring possibilities of working towards bilateral arrangements for licensed fishing was held on 21st April 2005. The Government of India’s deep appreciation for the humane treatment of straying fishermen was reiterated and it was agreed that the JWG would be an excellent instrument to continue this dialogue and pursue mutually acceptable solutions.
- The Sri Lanka government appreciated India’s cooperation in the repatriation of refugees who have decided to voluntarily return to Sri Lanka. Both sides noted that the issue is complex and sensitive and discussed the need for an appropriate resettlement package for returning refugees.
- The exchange of information relative to the Sethusamudram Canal Project was noted with satisfaction. It was agreed that further technical information sought by the Government of Sri Lanka would be made available once specific issues have been elaborated by the Sri Lankan authorities for further technical level discussion.
- Sri Lankan side expressed appreciation for the US$ 7.5 million grant pledged by India for the establishment of a Cancer Hospital and was agreed that a decision on the location of the site for the Cancer Hospital needs to be taken urgently. It was also agreed that an Indian team would visit Sri Lanka to discuss this matter further.
- In the context of the Indian technical and economic programme, Foreign Secretary Saran also announced that the training of Sri Lankan police personnel in criminal investigation techniques and other police administration methods is under active consideration.
- The ongoing cooperation between the two countries including the de-limitation of the Continental Shelf between the two countries was discussed. The successful conclusion of a Technical Workshop in Goa from 25 – 29 April 2005 was noted. They stressed the need for continuing technical cooperation between the two countries in this regard. It was agreed to constitute a sub-group to jointly examine legal matters pertaining to this issue. A proposal for Sri Lankan Geologists/Geophysicists to participate in the Indian Antarctica Research Programme was discussed.
- The need to have more cultural exchanges and strengthening of people to people contact was highlighted. The two sides noted with appreciation the commendable activities undertaken by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
- The early convening of the 13th SAARC Summit in Dhaka was discussed and the need for strengthening SAARC was endorsed.
- It was noted that there is a convergence of views on a number of multilateral issues including the need to conclude a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Both sides endorsed the adoption of the International Convention for Suppression of Acts on Nuclear Terrorism and discussed the Report of the High Level Panel on “Threats, Challenges and Change” and the Report of the Secretary General, “In Larger Freedom”. Indian appreciation for Sri Lanka’s support for a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council was reiterated.
- Views were exchanged on a range of regional and international issues including regional political and economic developments and cooperation in other international fora.
- The two sides found the consultations constructive and beneficial and agreed to maintain frequent High Level contacts.
May 3, 2005 Source