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    India aims to enhance and qualitatively improve ties with Sri Lanka Featured

    January 19, 2015

    New Delhi: India and Sri Lanka on Sunday (18) have discussed the "entire expanse" of their bilateral ties during the meeting between Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera and his Indian counterpart Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi.

    Addressing the media following the meeting that lasted over three hours, spokesperson of India's External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin said the talks were "extremely cordial and positive" marked by "warmth and mutual understanding."


    He said the talks were also substantive in nature and have yielded several outcomes.


    "Today's talks have been marked by warmth, mutual respect and an understanding between India and Sri Lanka and the substantive outcome demonstrated the desire of both countries to give a boost to our bilateral ties," the spokesperson said.


    Minister Samaraweera, who was on his first visit outside the country five days after he was sworn in as the External Affairs Minister, has indicated that choice of New Delhi as first destination reflects the priority the new Sri Lankan government places in its relations with New Delhi.


    Akbaruddin said the today's talks included areas of political and economic cooperation, political reconciliation process in Sri Lanka and efforts of new government, India's development partnership with India and the fishermen issue.


    India and Sri Lanka have also decided to reengage on the issue of repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees currently in India and talks between the officials in this matter will begin before the end of this month.


    Minister Samaraweera has invited Minister Swaraj for a visit to Sri Lanka and she has accepted the invitation. The two ministries will work out an early visit by her to Sri Lanka, the spokesperson said.

    During Swaraj's visit to Sri Lanka, the two sides will hold the next meeting of the Joint Commission of India and Sri Lanka. The annual meeting of the Joint Commission was last held in New Delhi in 2013.


    Addressing the fishermen's issue Minister Samaraweera has informed that sri Lanka is working on a modus operandi for the return of the Indian fishermen's boats, currently numbering about 87, that are in Sri Lankan custody.


    The two ministers have agreed that it is time for the fishermen's associations on both sides to engage on the issue and the spokesperson said they are now working with all stakeholders to find an early date which is suitable for both sides and a location for the meeting between the fishermen of the two countries.


    Both India and Sri Lanka feel that in the longer term a solution needs to be worked out taking into consideration all aspects of the matter but as an interim approach, the two sides have agreed that the issue has to be dealt with in a humane manner taking into account the livelihoods of the fishermen on both sides.


    The two external affairs ministers have also discussed the impending visit of new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to New Delhi and worked on a possible agenda for the visit, the spokesperson said.


    Minister Samaraweera also carried an invitation for an early visit by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka.


    Both sides have agreed to move ahead with the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Sri Lanka and India looks forward to working with Sri Lanka at a pace that is convenient to the new government.


    Responding to media questions on the demilitarization of Sri Lanka's North and East the spokesperson asked to allow time for the Sri Lanka government to articulate its views on the subject.


    "Please allow them (Sri Lanka) to articulate their views. We are working together with Sri Lanka on this matter as on host of other things," Akbaruddin said.


    He said India and Sri Lanka discussed all issues as friendly neighbors aiming at "enhancing our ties and improving them qualitatively."


    "Sri Lanka is an important neighbor, a friendly neighbor, a neighbor which has shown great understanding towards us," he said.

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