New Delhi: Text of Statement To Media By The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, during the visit of President of Sri Lanka, Shri Maithripala Sirisena, to India:
It is a great pleasure and privilege to welcome President Maithripala Sirisena and Mrs. Sirisena to India. We are honoured that you have chosen India as your first overseas destination. Let me congratulate you on behalf of the people of India for your historic victory. The election reflects the strength of democracy in Sri Lanka. Your mandate carries the collective voice of Sri Lanka. It represents the aspirations of your people for a united, inclusive peaceful and prosperous nation.
India is Sri Lanka`s closest neighbour and friend. The goodwill and support of the people of India will always be with you. The timeless links of history, religion and culture provide a solid foundation of our partnership. We also share a broad range of interests - economic development for our countries; peace and prosperity in South Asia; maritime security in the region. Indeed, I believe that our destinies are inter-linked. Our security and prosperity are indivisible.
President Sirisena and I had excellent discussions today on our bilateral relations and international issues. President and I are committed to unlock the vast potential of our economic cooperation. We are pleased to be Sri Lanka`s largest trading partner. I know that India enjoys a huge trade surplus. I expressed my support for a more balanced growth in trade in both directions. I conveyed our readiness to promote greater flow of Indian investments and tourists into Sri Lanka.
We discussed expansion of cooperation in energy sector, both conventional and renewable. Our Commerce Secretaries will meet soon to review our bilateral commercial relations. We also intend to further improve air and sea connectivity between India and Sri Lanka. The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is yet another demonstration of our mutual trust. This is the first such agreement Sri Lanka has signed. It opens new avenues for cooperation, including in areas like agriculture and healthcare.
President and I also agreed to expand our defence and security cooperation. We welcomed the progress in our maritime security cooperation, including in the trilateral format with Maldives. The Indian assisted projects for Internally Displaced Persons in Sri Lanka have made excellent progress. This includes the Housing Project, under which more than 27,000 houses have already been constructed. President and I expressed satisfaction with the progress.
I assured President Sirisena of India`s commitment to its development partnership with Sri Lanka. This will continue to cover a broad range of areas, including infrastructure. In this context, I am also pleased with the MoU on cooperation in agriculture. President and I attach the highest importance to the fishermen`s issue. It affects livelihood on both sides. We agreed that there must be a constructive and humanitarian approach to the issue. We will encourage the fishermen`s associations on both sides to meet again soon. They should find a solution that can be taken forward by both governments.
Like cricket, culture provides a strong bond between us. The Programme of Cultural Cooperation signed today will nurture those ties and promote contacts between people. I am also delighted that Sri Lanka is now part of the Nalanda University Project. It recalls a link forged 2300 years ago, by Prince Mahindra, known as Arhat Mahinda in Sri Lanka, and his sister Sanghamitra.They went to Sri Lanka as apostles of Buddhism. Sri Lankan nationals visit the National Museum in New Delhi in large numbers to pay homage to the Kapilavastu relics. We have decided to reduce the fees for them. I thanked the President for his invitation to me to visit Sri Lanka. I am eagerly looking forward to visiting his beautiful country in March. I would like to once again welcome President Sirisena to India. We are at a moment of an unprecedented opportunity to take our bilateral relations to a new level. His visit today has set us firmly in that direction.
Sanjay Trivedi is honorary editor of Asia Times. He is senior Indian Journalist having vast experience of 25 years. He worked in Janmabhoomi, Vyapar, Divya Bhaskar etc. newspapers and TV9 Channel as well as www.news4education.com. He also served as Media Officer in Gujarat Technological University.