By Walter Jayawardhana

Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh told Sri lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa that prosperity of India depends on strong links with her neighbors and India gave highest importance to her relations with Sri Lanka.

“One cannot envisage a prosperous India without strong links with her neighbors, and the present SAARC Summit in Colombo provided an opportunity for such a partnership”, said the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, in discussions with President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat today in Colombo.

The talks between the two leaders took place as part of the 15th SAARC Summit. Prior to the bilateral discussions the Indian Prime Minister and the Sri Lankan President had a one-to-one discussion.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who congratulated the Sri Lanka government for the excellent arrangements for the SAARC Summit, referred to the highest importance that India gave to her relations with Sri Lanka . He said the two countries had centuries old ties, and that the prosperity of the two nations was closely linked. He observed that the discussions at the SAARCV under the leadership of President Rajapaksa would acquire historic significance.

President Rajapaksa reciprocated the very warm sentiments expressed by the Indian leader, and said Sri Lanka valued then economic benefits that Sri Lanka is deriving from the investments and an industrial engagement of Indian entrepreneurs.

He also thanked the Indian Government for the development cooperation to Sri Lanka, including the rehabilitation of the Tsunami affected Southern Railway, for which a Memorandum of Understanding is due to be signed.

The Sri Lankan President briefed the Indian Prime Minister about the positive developments in the Eastern Province in the last one year, such as the holding of the local government polls, the first provincial council polls with the reward electoral success going to a political leader from the principal minority in the country, and the launching of an important development programme, to be implemented in two years, and costing US $ 2 billion.

President Rajapaksa also reaffirmed the commitment of his administration to implement comprehensively the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in the Eastern Province , and said that parallel to this process the APRC is expected to submit recommendations to forge a further political consensus of solution to the current crisis.

The Sri Lankan President also pointed out that the security operations in the North were progressing successful with the guiding principle to the Security Forces to exercise utmost caution against casualties among civilians.

The two leaders also discussed fisheries incidents in the northern waters off Sri Lanka , particularly the Palk Strait , and President Rajapaksa further reiterated the long standing policy of the Sri Lankan Navy to treat fisherman apprehended in Sri Lankan waters in a humanitarian manner. At the same time, the Indian authorities were urged to continue to discourage Indian fishermen from crossing the International Line of Demarcation, as their presence is used by the LTTE as cover for its activities.

In discussions on economic cooperation between the two countries the benefits of investment in Sri Lanka by Indian entrepreneurs was underscored.



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