Colombo | Noting that security of India and Sri Lanka was indivisible, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today strongly pitched for enhanced cooperation in key areas of maritime security and counter-terrorism. In an address to Sri Lankan Parliament, Modi said the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka were paramount for India and that the recent elections have reflected the hope for change, and reconciliation in the country.
He also announced India’s unstinted support to Sri Lanka in its march for development. Modi became the fourth Indian Prime Minister to address the Sri Lankan Parliament. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai were the other Indian Prime Ministers to address it. Talking about the security challenges, he said both the countries should join hands and expand maritime cooperation to successfully combat terrorism and extremism. We deeply value our security cooperation with Sri Lanka.
We should expand the maritime security cooperation between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives to include others in the Indian Ocean area, Modi said. The Prime Minister said enhanced maritime cooperation between the two countries will be vital for building a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous maritime neighbourhood. The Indian Ocean is critical to the security and prosperity of our two countries. And, we can be more successful in achieving these goals if we work together; build a climate of trust and confidence; and we remain sensitive to each other’s interest, he said.
For both of us, local threats remain. But, we see threats arising in new forms and from new sources. We are witnessing globalisation of terrorism. The need for our cooperation has never been stronger than today, Modi said.
Promising India’s whole-hearted support to Sri Lanka, Modi said it was time for a new vigour in partnership between the two countries and that both should ensure that the proximity always translates into closeness. I also assure you of India`s full commitment to development partnership with Sri Lanka. We see this as a responsibility of a friend and neighbour, he said.
Modi said though India does not have a land boundary with Sri Lanka, but still it was the closest neighbours in every sense. Sri Lanka’s progress and prosperity is also a source of strength for India. So, Sri Lanka’s success is of great significance to India, he said.
Referring to the Sri Lanka’s nearly three-decade-long civil war with the LTTE, Modi complimented the country for successfully defeating terrorism and brining the conflict to an end. You now stand at a moment of historic opportunity to win the hearts and heal the wounds across all sections of society. The recent elections in Sri Lanka have reflected the collective voice of the nation the hope for change, reconciliation and unity, he said.
Referring to reconciliation process, Modi described as bold and admirable the recent steps taken by the government of the country to ensure welfare for all sections. They represent a new beginning. I am confident of a future of Sri Lanka, defined by unity and integrity; peace and harmony; and, opportunity and dignity for everyone, he said. Modi said when we accommodate the aspirations of all sections of our society, the nation gets the strength of every individual.
He said, for India, the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka are paramount. It is rooted in our interest. My vision of an ideal neighbourhood is one in which trade, investments, technology, ideas and people flow easily across borders; when partnerships in the region are formed with the ease of routine, he said. Promising all possible support from India, Modi said he will be happy if India serves a catalyst in the progress of its neighbours.
I have come with the hope of building this bridge a bridge that rests on strong pillars of our shared inheritance; of shared values and vision; of mutual support and solidarity; of friendly exchanges and productive cooperation; and, above all, belief in each other and our shared destiny, he said. Favouring better trade ties between the two countries, Modi said our neighbours should have the first claim on India. And I again repeat, the first claim on India is of our neighbours of Sri Lanka.
Highlighting his government’s efforts to boost economic growth in India, Modi said the world sees it as the new frontier of economic opportunity. In India, the growth momentum has been restored. India has become the fastest growing major economy in the world, he said.
Talking about India’s commitment towards Sri Lanka, Modi said, I bring the greetings of 1.25 billion friends; and millions of fans of Sri Lankan cricket. The Prime Minister said Sri Lanka has the potential to be India’s strongest economic partner in the region and his government would try to boost bilateral trade and make it more balanced.
India’s trade environment is becoming more open. Sri Lanka should not fall behind others in this competitive world. That is why we should conclude an ambitious Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, he said. Calling for sustained efforts to harness the vast potential of the Ocean economy, Modi also assured Sri Lanka of India’s full commitment to development partnership it. We see this as a responsibility of a friend and neighbour, he said.
India has committed USD 1.6 billion in development assistance. Today, we have committed further assistance of up to 318 million dollars to the railway sector, he said. Modi said people were at the heart of the relationship and that is why India had decided to extend the visa-on-arrival facility to Sri Lankan citizens. Talking about his government’s priorities, the Prime Minister said making the states in India stronger was one of the major initiative as he was a firm believer in cooperative federalism.
Modi also referred to civil nuclear cooperation pact signed between the two countries last month. More than anywhere else in the region, I see enormous potential to expand cooperation with Sri Lanka in areas like agriculture, education, health, science and technology, and space. Indeed, we are limited only by our imagination. We hope that Sri Lanka will take full benefit of India`s satellite for the SAARC Region. This should be in space by December 2016, he said.
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