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Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Meets Indian Counterpart

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L Peiris is on a three-day visit to India and met his Indian counterpart yesterday. 

The Sri Lankan Minister met Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar and held extensive discussions. This is the minister’s first visit to New Delhi after being appointed for the position. Post the meeting, the visiting minister told an Indian media house that the Island will not allow itself to be used by other countries that can impact India’s strategic and security concerns. 

Interacting with Indian media, the minister said that in no way Lanka will allow its assets to be used by China or any other country because of the economic challenges it is facing. The minister, however, added that Lanka has benefitted from joining China’s Belt Road Initiative. 

Reports suggest that India had expressed concern over Chinese activities in the island country, especially in the northern parts of the country. The Chinese embassy has been reaching out to locals in the region. 

The Minister shared that such concerns are unfounded. He said that ties with India have been upgraded to a strategic level, with the Trincomalee Oil tank farm deal and the agreement to develop the Colombo port’s western container terminal by an Indian company. 

The minister also attempted to reach out to India and the international community on the advancements made by the country to address human rights issues.  Sri Lanka’s progress on the issue will be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council later in February. 

The minister also said that the reports of debt are also fictitious. The minister expressed that the financial situation has been improving following the increase in tourism and restart of remittances. 

The minister lauded Indian support and aid, as it had made a “world of difference” to the country’s economy. There have been a series of meetings between top ministers from both countries in recent months, followed by the announcement of a series of agreements between the two neighbours.

 The minister speaking to an Indian media outlet said that conflict over fishing rights is a “constant irritant” between the two countries. The Sri Lankan minister hopes that these differences can be ironed out with talks. 

Continuing the bilateral talks, it is expected that the Sri Lankan Finance Minister would be visiting the Indian capital in the next few weeks. 

Sri Lanka has also invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the BIMSTEC summit which Colombo is hosting on 30 March.