India, Sri Lanka ink agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy, agriculture

PTI/AFP
Published Feb 16, 2015, 7:03 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 7:33 pm IST
Bilateral agreement on civil nuclear deal is sign of trust between India, Sri Lanka, says PM Modi

New Delhi: India and Sri Lanka on Monday signed an agreement on cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

This agreement would facilitate cooperation in the transfer and exchange of knowledge and expertise, sharing of resources, capacity building and training of personnel in peaceful uses of nuclear energy including use of radioisotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety, nuclear security, radioactive waste management and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection.

 

The agreement was signed by Ratan Kumar Sinha, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy; and Patali Champika Ranawaka, Minister of Power and Energy, Sri Lanka. The two sides also signed Work-Plan 2014-2015 under the MoU on cooperation in the field of agriculture.

This agreement would facilitate bilateral cooperation in agro processing, agricultural extension, horticulture, agricultural machinery, training in farm mechanization, livestock diseases, etc. between relevant institutes and organizations from both countries.

The agreement was signed by Ashish Bahuguna, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation; and Sudharshan Seneviratne, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka.

The agreements were signed after the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

On his maiden foreign trip after assuming office, Sirisena, who arrived in Delhi on Sunday on a four-day visit, also held comprehensive discussions with the Prime Minister on ways to enhance economic ties.

"President Sirisena and I had excellent discussions today on our bilateral relations and international issues," PM Narendra Modi said.

"We discussed expansion of cooperation in energy sector both conventional and renewable. The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is yet another demonstration of our mutual trust."

PM Modi addressed the Tamil fishermen issue, "President and I attach the highest importance to the fishermen's issue. We agreed that there must be a constructive and humanitarian approach to the issue."

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisene said that he chose India to be his first state visit and that there is a strong relation between the nation.

He added that PM Modi's visir to Sri Lanka would be an honour for the country

"India and Sri Lanka leaders discussed measures to enhance economic ties. The leaders discussed four agreements," Spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin said as President Sirisena and Prime Minister Modi met at Hyderabad House here.

The four pacts which were discussed include those on civil nuclear cooperation, culture and agriculture. The issue of peace and reconciliation process in the island nation was discussed during the meeting spread over a working lunch, hosted by Modi. Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the visiting dignitary.

According to presidential advisors in Colombo, 63-year -old Sirisena, who had dethroned Mahinda Rajapaksa from his 10-year rule after a bitter Presidential poll on January 9, was desirous of making a new beginning in the Indo-Lanka relations.

India has been hoping that the new Lankan government will develop the country on the "foundation of genuine and effective reconciliation" creating harmony among all sections there. India has also been pressing for implementation of 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution on devolution of powers.

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Agreements exchanged between Sri Lanka and India. (Photo: ANI Twitter)

India has long considered Sri Lanka to be within its strategic sphere of influence, sending troops to the island in 1987 to enforce a peace accord it brokered between Colombo and separatist Tamil rebels. But under Rajapakse China ploughed huge sums into Sri Lankan infrastructure projects, becoming the country's biggest foreign financier and enjoying significant political and even military influence.

India was reported to have been furious at the brief appearance last year of two Chinese submarines in Sri Lankan waters. China has been accused of seeking to develop facilities around the Indian Ocean in a "string of pearls" strategy to counter the rise of its Asian rival India and secure its own economic interests. After meeting India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Sirisena  began lunchtime talks with Modi at his residence in the capital.

Speaking to reporters before the meetings, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the talks would cover a wide range of issues, including on nuclear energy.

"When India and Sri Lanka talk, we talk on all issues and there are issues of a political and strategic nature that we are engaged in," he said. "You are aware that there have been discussions between India and Sri Lanka on matters of civil nuclear cooperation and we are both committed to take this forward."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, Indian diplomats in Colombo said that Sirisena and Modi were expected to reach an agreement on cooperation in the civilian use of nuclear technology.

This stems partly from Sri Lanka's concerns that any disaster involving the Kundankulam nuclear plant in India's Tamil Nadu state could have catastrophic consequences for the island too. Under the proposed agreement, India would provide technical assistance in education, training and disaster management.

Sirisena is also expected to try to secure greater Indian investment in Sri Lanka, which said last week it was seeking an international bailout of more than $4.0 billion. China funded much of Sri Lanka's post-war infrastructure under the Rajapakse administration but the new government has said the interest rates charged on the loans averaged between five and seven percent.

Sirisena is being accompanied by several ministers, including Reconstruction Minister D. M. Swaminathan, who said the government was keen to secure India's support for ethnic reconciliation following the island's decade-long ethnic war that ended in 2009.

Sri Lanka's minority Tamils share close cultural ties with the Tamils in Tamil Nadu. Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh boycotted a Commonwealth summit in Colombo in late 2013, partly to protest at the Rajapakse administration's treatment of the Tamils.

Modi, who has made clear his desire to reassert India's dominance in its own backyard, will travel to Colombo next month. Sirisena is due to be guest of honour at a banquet thrown by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in the evening. On Tuesday he will travel to the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya and a Hindu temple in Tirupati further south before leaving the next day.

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