India seeks to open consulate in Jaffna

India seeks to open consulate in Jaffna

Rao, who held wide ranging discussion with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said she received positive response from him on India's request to open a consulate in Jaffna. "Of course we have to work out the modalities. Because we feel our office there will help us to be in touch with the local people, help us do assistance programme, help issue visas," she said.

Rao said the opening an Indian mission in Jaffna will ultimately help the bilateral relationship and it would also benefit the people of the north to see connectivity restored with the southern India. India has only one consulate in Kandy, the Sinhala dominated area. At the conclusion of her three-day visit to the Sri Lanka, the top Indian diplomat said that during her two hour discussions with Rajapaksa, the early resettlement of the IDPs also came up for talks.

"People in the north want to see normal life once again. The sense I get people don’t want conflict. They are not in favour of extremism. They want normal lives. They want to be pragmatic in their approach to this. There aspirations, their self respect, their essential interests to be preserved. They want connectivity with India, cultural renaissance, tourism. They are hunger for all that," she said.

Congratulating the President on his massive electoral victory, Rao underlined that the elimination of terrorism and holding of elections provided Sri Lanka a historic opportunity to initiate a process of political reconciliation where all communities can live in peace and harmony.

The Lankan President appreciated India’s substantial assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka and for the resettlement of displaced persons. He particularly highlighted the extension of USD 425 million credit for railway projects in Northern Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa mentioned that around 70,000 IDPs remained in the camps. The Indian Foreign Secretary welcomed the relaxation of movement restrictions on IDPs, but also expressed hope to speed up resettlement process, especially in Killinochchi and Mullaithivu. It would ensure that the IDPs could resume normal lives.

On the issue of Indian fishermen being arrested by the Sri Lankan coast guards, Rao noted that the October 2008 Joint Statement of Fishing Arrangements had led to a decline in such incidents. She reiterated the importance of strictly adhering to this understanding.

It was also agreed to convene a meeting of the Joint Working Group on Fishing to discuss issues related to fishermen on both sides. During her discussions with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Rao underlined India’s resolve to continue support for the task of development and reconstruction in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, hit by years of insurgency due to the ethnic conflict.

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