Modi, Sri Lanka PM talk development in island nation

Modi, Sri Lanka PM talk development in island nation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday discussed India's   development assistance to the island nation.

India has offered to develop the Trincomalee Port and the East Container terminal of the Colombo Port.

The Lankan PM is currently on a four-day visit to India. He visited Bengaluru on Tuesday and arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday. He met Modi on Thursday.

"Held talks with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe," Modi posted on Twitter. "A strong economy in Sri Lanka starts with strong relationships with our friends around the world. In New Delhi with @NarendraModi to boost our partnership for our people," tweeted Wickremesinghe.

"Neighbourhood first. PM @narendramodi received Sri Lankan PM @RW_UNP at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, both countries share strong and close relations based on mutual trust and respect," Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted after the two leaders met.

Kumar later told journalists that all important bilateral issues, including India's development projects in Sri Lanka, had come up for discussion.

Sources said that the two Prime Ministers discussed New Delhi's $200 million offer to Colombo for control of Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka for the next 40 years. The airport was built by the erstwhile Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa with a $190 million soft loan from Exim Bank of China.

Beijing is keen to develop Hambantota as a hub for its Belt-and-Road initiative. Sri Lanka earlier this year signed a $1.1 billion deal to sell a 70% stake of the strategic Hambantota port to China under a 99-year lease agreement. President Maithripala Sirisena's government in Colombo had to enter into a deal as construction of the Hambantota Port by another company of China during the erstwhile regime led by Mahinda Rajapaksa had resulted in a heavy burden of debt.

India wants to take over the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota on lease in order to make sure that the coastal city does not go fully under control of China.

Modi and Wickremesinghe also discussed proposed investment by India in the development of Trincomalee Port, a strategic deep-water port on the east coast of Sri Lanka as well as in the East Container Terminal at the Port of Colombo, sources said.

India's aid

A meeting between Modi and Wickremesinghe in New Delhi in June was followed by signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Economic Projects. The MoU outlined the scope for India's support for several development projects in Sri Lanka,   including a 500 MW re-gasified Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fired power plant, an LNG terminal or floating storage re-gasification unit in Colombo or Kerawalapitiya, a 50 MW solar power plant in Sampur and industrial zones and special economic zones.

India also offered a joint venture to develop and operate an oil storage facility of World War II vintage at Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka.

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