ECONOMYNEXT – India has “conveyed that Sri Lanka should uphold the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution,” Delhi’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has told the Sunday Virakesari.
In an exclusive interview with Virakesari Political Correspondent R Ram, Jaishankar also emphasized that the “process of reconciliation with the implementation of the 13th Amendment needs to be carried forward.”
The Indian EAM also said that Delhi would hold Sri Lanka to its commitments and said that he recalled: “that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had expressed confidence during the Virtual Bilateral Summit on 26 September 2020 that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation.”
“I reiterated that India is strongly committed to a united and stable Sri Lanka, which also addresses the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity,” he added.
The full transcript of the interview is below:
Ram: Does India propose to implement any new development plans for the North, East and upcountry over and above what has been already undertaken?
Jaishankar: India remains a committed development partner of Sri Lanka. Our unique Indian Housing Project, constructing 50,000 houses for Sri Lankan families from the North, East and Upcountry is well appreciated in the island. Moreover, iconic projects like Jaffna Cultural Center in the North and Dickoya Hospital in Hatton were completed using Indian grants. Northern Railway lines were constructed using Indian Lines of credit. Kankesanthurai port, Palaly airport are under renovation using Indian funds. An additional 10,000 houses under Indian Housing Programme would be built in the plantation region in the next 4 years.
Drawing heavily from our past project experience of mass housing or ambulance services, heritage conservation or education, we would continue to build community and human assets all over Sri Lanka to promote the post-Covid regional economic recovery.
With this in mind, I have had productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on the future plan of action for our development partnership. We hope to continue our holistic discussions further as per the domestic priorities. We intend to focus in the areas of education, skill development, vocational training, health and agriculture in North, East and Upcountry.
Ram: How does India see the new reflections of Sri Lanka on the Indo-Lanka Accord and creation of Provincial Government? Will India continue to pursue implement the 13th Amendment?
Jaishankar: India’s position on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka has been consistent. In my meetings, I reiterated that India is strongly committed to a united and stable Sri Lanka, which also addresses the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity. The process of reconciliation with the implementation of the 13th Amendment needs to be carried forward. I conveyed that Sri Lanka should uphold the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution. You would recall that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had expressed confidence during the Virtual Bilateral Summit on 26 September 2020 that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation.
Ram: Why do you think Sri Lankan government is delaying handing over of ECT to India? Why is ECT important for India?
Jaishankar: The benefits of having India as a partner in ECT are obvious as nearly 2/3rds of Colombo Port’s trans-shipment business is with India.
We have engaged with the Sri Lankan government to take this project forward and would be happy to see ECT’s development through investment from India and Japan, as preferred by the current Sri Lankan Government.
I would also like to clarify that there is no question of transfer of ownership of the terminal which will continue to be with Sri Lanka.
Apart from addressing the urgent need for capacity expansion at the Colombo Port and generating employment locally, India’s participation in the ECT will further strengthen shipping and economic ties between the two countries.
This project can serve as a good signal for attracting greater investments from India and the world which is much needed for Sri Lanka’s recovery.
We firmly believe that this project will help in enhancing Sri Lanka’s attractiveness as a connectivity and energy hub for the region and we can play a very positive role in this regard. (Colombo, January 12, 2021)
Edited by Arjuna Ranawana