Sri Lanka foreign minister’s India visit: Lanka interests best served by peace for Tamils, says Jaishankar

Recalling the positive impact of India’s developmental and rehabilitation support, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told his visiting Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris that Colombo’s interests are best served by ensuring equality, justice, peace and respect for Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka.

“Devolution of power is an important aspect of this process,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in its official statement after two days of meetings between Peiris and top Indian officials.

Besides meeting Jaishankar, Peiris also met NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. The Sri Lankan statement did not mention anything about these Indian concerns.

But the Indian statement said, “The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister expressed gratitude for India’s recent assistance and updated External Affairs Minister on steps taken by Government of Sri Lanka on human rights and reconciliation.”

During the talks, the Lankan statement said, Peiris raised the fisheries issue with Jaishankar. “Terming it as a ‘flashpoint’, the Foreign Minister pointed out that it has become a recurring issue, assuming a different complexion. The two sides agreed on urgent need to convene all bilateral mechanisms in this regard,” it stated.

The Indian statement said that “both sides reiterated the longstanding consensus to handle fishermen issue through humanitarian approach and refrain from the use of violence in dealing with incidents along the IMBL”. It stated, “They agreed that bilateral mechanisms should meet early, starting with the Joint Working Group on Fisheries.”

Peiris extended an invitation to Jaishankar to undertake an official visit to Sri Lanka in March. He also stated that Sri Lanka is looking forward for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the island-nation for the forthcoming BIMSTEC Summit in March 2022, the Lankan statement said.

With a view to maintaining the momentum of the trajectory of India-Lanka relationship, the ministers agreed on early finalisation of several agreements and MoUs in areas of defence, culture and education, which are pending between the two countries.

Jaishankar underscored priority accorded to Sri Lanka by India under Modi’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision and the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

“He called for expeditiously taking forward mutually beneficial projects, including proposals to enhance air and sea connectivity between India and Sri Lanka to reinforce people-to-people linkages and economic and investment initiatives,” the MEA stated.

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