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Nirupama Rao to visit Colombo tomorrow

[Hindu, Friday, 5 March 2010 10:42 No Comment]

On the invitation of the Government of Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is scheduled to undertake a three day visit to the island nation beginning on March 6 for interaction with her interlocutors here on a wide range of issues of mutual interest to both the counties.

A statement issued by the Sri Lanka Foreign Office here said, “Smt. Rao who has served earlier as the High Commissioner for India in Colombo from 2004-2006, will now be visiting Sri Lanka for the first time after assuming the office of India’s Foreign Secretary on 1st August 2009.

“During her stay, she will call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and will meet with other senior government personalities. Smt. Rao is also scheduled to inaugurate the English Language Training Centre in Peradeniya which has been established with the support of the Government of India”.

In the course of her stay Ms. Rao is expected to call on the President and exchange views on the current situation in the island nation in general and on the plans of Mr. Rajapaksa to generate consensus among all the concerned for resolution of the ethnic conflict.

Since the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) last May and deathe of its leader, Velupillai Prabakaran, India has been engaged closely in extending help to the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government for the welfare of the nearly three lakh Tamil civilians displaced in the war and housed in the government run welfare camps in the northern province and their subsequent rehabilitation and re-settlement.

Simultaneously, India has been urging Colombo on the need for political arrangements which would serve the legitimate interests and meet the aspirations of all Sri Lankan citizens and got commitment of the Government to a political process that would lead to lasting peace and reconciliation.

For several months before the military defeat of the LTTE, India and Sri Lanka have put in place a mechanism of informal co-ordination at the highest level for exchange of information as well as consultation on the emerging scenario. The group from the Sri Lankan side consists of Basil Rajapaksa, MP in the recently dissolved Parliament and Senior Adviser to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary.

They had last visited New Delhi in December second week and held extensive discussions on a wide rage of subjects with their counterparts. A Joint Press Statement on the occasion had noted,” Both sides recognised the importance of sustaining peace and moving towards a political solution in Sri Lanka. The Indian side welcomed the holding of local elections in Jaffna and Vavuniya.

“Both sides agreed on the need for political arrangements which would serve the legitimate interests and meet the aspirations of all Sri Lankan citizens. The Sri Lankan side reiterated the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to a political process that would lead to lasting peace and reconciliation. Both sides agreed on the need for restoration of infrastructure and services in the North and East Sri Lanka and welcomed the participation of Indian companies in these projects”.

“Noting the salutary effect, which the October 2008 Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements has had on issues relating to fishing, the two sides agreed to continue to adhere to these arrangements and also agreed to convene the Joint Working Group on Fishing Cooperation to continue discussions on the draft MOU to put in place an institutional arrangement”.

Immediately after the end of the war in May last year, to help Sri Lanka in providing immediate relief for the war displaced and their subsequent rehabilitation and rehabilitation India had announced grant assistance Rs. 500 crore.

The assistance has been directed at supply of relief material in the form of food and non-food items worth US$ 8.5 million, establishment of a field hospital at Pulmoddai and later at Menik Farms in Vavuniya, and deployment of seven demining teams at a cost of US$ 4.2 million.

India will also assist with the construction of a Cultural Centre and renovation of the Durraippah Stadium in Jaffna and with establishment of Vocational Training Centres at Jaffna, Vauniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Nuwara Eliya.

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