EconomyNext – Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will seek investments by big Indian businesses and support to modernise highways and education during a four-day state visit to India starting Sunday, February 15, officials said.
Sirisena’s visit will open a new chapter in Indo-Lanka relations, government spokesman Plantations Industries Minister Lakshman Kiriella told the news conference.
"In the last few years India and Sri Lanka have had disagreements, especially in international organisations. We hope to have a new beginning with India," he said.
"We attach great importance to our relationship with India. Our relationship with India is the cornerstone of our foreign policy."
D. M. Swaminadan, Minister of Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Religious Affairs, said Sri Lanka will target investments from big business groups like the Tatas and Birlas.
Kiriella said Sirisena will seek to improve Indo-Lanka bilateral co-operation with support for highways, higher education and investment the main topics for talks.
"Our country needs investment, not loans. Please understand the difference," he declared, referring to the former regime’s heavy reliance on loans mainly from China which Kiriella’s party had criticised when in opposition before winning power in January.
In 2014 Foreign Direct Investment actually was less than the previous year, Kiriella said.
"We did not get investments because of the absence of the rule of law and media freedom under the former regime.
"Under the previous government we did not get investments, only loans at high interest rates (‘gini poli’)," he said.
"From India we hope to get investments. If we have good relations with India we don’t need other countries because you can sell so many things to India."
Kiriella said Sri Lanka will seek investments from China as well.
"India can’t complain about our relationship with China because we want investment. We want Chinese businessmen to come and set up factories to give jobs."
Kiriella said Sirisena was likely to discuss with India a United Nations probe on alleged human rights abuses by the military in its war against Tamil Tiger separatists. The UN is to present a report in March.
It will be his first trip abroad after he was elected President in the January 8 presidential poll.
"India’s support for us is crucial. If India says Sri Lanka is heading in the right direction (on human rights) and is supportive, it will go a long way."