Amid concerns in India about Chinese activities in Sri Lanka, the Lankan high commissioner, Milinda Moragoda, said that the recent visit by President Ranil Wickremesinghe had consolidated the trust-building process between the 2 countries and that the strategically located island nation in the Indian Ocean saw India’s security as Sri Lanka’s own security.
PM Narendra Modi had during the visit by Wickremesinghe underlined the need for the 2 countries to keep each other’s safety and sensitivities in mind while working together.
“There were discussions on geopolitical and strategic issues during the visit. India’s security is our security. We have civilisational links. We have the same blood. There has to be more communication and trust-building and the visit has consolidated this process,’’ Moragoda told TOI, while discussing the significance of what was Wickremesinghe’s first visit to India as the president of Sri Lanka.
The visit last month was also the first by the Lankan president since a Chinese spy vessel, much to India’s consternation, was allowed to dock at the Hambantota port last year. The president had assured India that Sri Lanka will remain mindful of India’s security concerns in the maritime domain, especially in relation to China’s presence in his country.
The visit saw Wickremesinghe thanking Modi for assistance worth $ 4 billion dollars India provided to the debt-ridden country to stabilise its economy and also for support in debt restructuring efforts. “There was focus on finding a new growth strategy at a time the global environment remains challenging. We are looking at how we can benefit from India through integration of the 2 economies, better connectivity and by attracting more investments from India,’’ said Moragoda, adding that Sri Lanka can be a gateway to the region the way the Netherlands is to Europe.
The visit had India and Sri Lanka signing several agreements and unveiling a bilateral vision document focused on opening up new possibilities in trade and economic cooperation.
Modi had also strongly raised the Tamil issue with Wickremesinghe, seeking the implementation of the 13th Amendment for devolution of power and also early provincial elections. He had said India wanted Sri Lanka to ensure a life of dignity for the Tamil community.
Asked about Modi’s remarks, Moragoda said Sri Lanka’s commitment to the 13th Amendment wasn’t in doubt but that this issue could only be addressed through Parliament. “Sri Lanka is keen on reconciliation and the president is talking to all stakeholders. It’s a deeply polarised society and consensus has to be built in Parliament. The president has clearly explained how he wants to do it, including through the establishment of a truth commission,’’ said the high commissioner. During his visit, Wickremesinghe had shared with Modi his “comprehensive proposal” for furthering reconciliation and power sharing through devolution.