- Published on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 09:41
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New Delhi, Sri Lanka and India Tuesday signed two separate agreements on combating international terrorism and avoidance of double taxation, eyeing elevation of bilateral ties to building of a special economic partnership.
The two key accords were signed after the 8th India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting held in New Delhi discussed enhanced cooperation in a range of areas including civil nuclear energy. Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs Prof G.L Pieris is currently in New Delhi for bilateral talks on 8th India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting.The Indian side was led by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid .
According to reports the two sides also discussed the emotive issue of fishermen and rehabilitation process of Tamils in Sri Lanka besides the 13th Amendment of the Lankan constitution that gives autonomy to provinces.
India and Sri Lanka are each other’s largest trade partners in South Asia. “Given the vast untapped potential, we have stressed the need for intensive consultations towards a more comprehensive framework for economic cooperation and building of a special economic partnership,” Indian Minister Khurshid has said.
“In this context, it was also agreed to initiate a dialogue between Commerce Secretary of India and Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Sri Lanka at an early date to evolve a framework for a special economic partnership between the two countries,” a Joint Statement issued after the meeting said.
India is the largest foreign direct investor in Sri Lanka. Under this, the two sides agreed to encourage closer economic and trade linkages between all stakeholders with a view to doubling bilateral trade to USD 10 billion in the next three years.
“We are working on setting up of a Special Economic Zone in Trincomalee and a pharmaceutical and a textiles cluster elsewhere in Sri Lanka,” Indian Minister has told PTI.
On his part, Peiris stressed that Sri Lanka was moving into a “new era” and underlined that the economic ties between the two countries was no longer a “one-way relationship”.
He said the Lankan private sector has been contributing to Indian economy. He denied the recent hike in duty for the automobile sector that affected Indian companies was aimed at India. “It is not a political decision and neither a discriminatory one aimed at India. There has been some misunderstanding,” he said adding criterion for increased duty was based on engine capacity.
On the issue of fishermen, the Lankan Foreign minister said “very clear” orders have been given to the Lanka Navy that there should not be any violence. “These instructions are being scrupulously followed,” he said. Khurshid said the JCM agreed on the need to extend humane treatment and abjuring of violence against fishermen of the two countries.
“The need for both sides to adhere to the Practical Arrangements on Fishing of 2008, which had helped to decrease incidents on the International Maritime Boundary Line, has been duly noted.
“Both sides have placed great emphasis on the safety of our fishermen and the need to continue to ensure that violence is not resorted to under any circumstances,” he said.
The Lankan Minister said the 13th Amendment was an “integral” part of the Lankan Constitution and that various opinions that are being expressed by political parties in Sri Lanka. He said the Lankan government is listening to all including their coalition partners and would take everything into consideration.
Khurshid said he had conveyed India’s readiness to support Sri Lanka’s endeavor in capacity building in science and technology, agriculture, ICT, education and health sectors. “We agreed to enhance cooperation in the energy sector. We are already discussing finalisation of major mutually beneficial projects in power and oil and gas Sectors. We look forward to enhanced cooperation in new and renewable energy, civil nuclear energy and space technology in future,” he said.
Khurshid noted that India and Sri Lanka enjoy a growing defence relationship built on extensive training and Service- to-Service linkages. “We today reviewed our mutual strategic interests, in view of the commonality of concerns, including with respect to the safety and security of sea lanes of communication. We agreed to promote dialogue on security and defence issues of relevance in bilateral as well as in regional context,” he said.