Rajapaksa meet Prez, PM; talks rehab process, fishermen

Rajapaksa meet Prez, PM; talks rehab process, fishermen

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today held meetings with the top Indian leadership during which they discussed key bilateral issues, including fishermen, even as India pressed for an expeditious inclusive solution to the ethnic issue and rehabilitation of displaced Tamils.

Rajapaksa, who is India on a three-day official visit, held comprehensive deliberations with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during which they reviewed all matters of mutual interest, official sources said.

Both the meetings (with Mukherjee and Singh) consisted of discussions in a restricted format, followed by meetings along with delegations, for more than 40 minutes, they said.

The Prime Minister raised the issue of devolution of powers so that Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka can look forward to a future where they can live with dignity and respect.

Rajapaksa noted that elections had been held in three provinces and administrative and other steps were underway to hold elections in the Northern province.

On his part, Rajapaksa talked about various steps taken by his government to rehabilitate Tamils as also in dealing with the ethnic issue.

Concerned over the slow pace of the rehabilitation of Tamils, New Delhi has been pressing Colombo to fast-track the rehabilitation of war-displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka and also asking it to speed up a lasting solution to the ethnic issue.

In the backdrop of arrest and alleged harassment of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka, Singh, during his meeting with Rajapaksa, emphasised on the need to treat fishermen humanely in cases where they may stray across maritime boundary.

Both agreed it would be best for fishermen's associations to meet and discuss these issues further, said the sources.

Singh and Rajapaksa noted the momentum of economic ties and assessed the growth of commercial relations positively.

Rajapaksa's visit comes amid angry protests by some Tamil leaders. Nearly half a dozen MDMK supporters, opposing the Lankan President's visit to Madhya Pradesh, were detained at Salamatpur near Sanchi as a precautionary measure, according to the state police.

Rajapaksa met President Mukherjee during which the rehabilitation process for Tamils and fishermen issues were discussed.

In the backdrop of the recent attacks against Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu, the visiting leader, during his meeting with Mukherjee, also noted that such "unfortunate incidents" should not be allowed to "harm" age-old ties between the two countries.

Rajapaksa thanked Singh for the Kapilavastu relics expositions in Sri Lanka where more than 3 million people paid their respects.

This is second visit of Kapilavastu relics to Sri Lanka, the first having come in 1978.
Singh also hosted a private dinner, which was attended by a select number of guests, for the visiting dignitary.

Rajapaksa has been invited by Madhya Pradesh government for the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the University of Buddhist and Indic Studies in Sanchi.

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