Written by Staff Writer
14 Sep, 2015 | 7:49 pm
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe arrived in India on Monday evening, marking the commencement of his first state visit, since assuming office.
News 1st’s Shameer Rasooldeen and Fredrick Dissanayake are in New Delhi bringing us official reports on the Prime Minister’s visit. News1st correspondent Shameer Rasooldeen stated that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe arrived in New Delhi this evening and he was flanked by the International Minister of trade Malik Samarawickrama.
He went on to note that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, will arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday. During the two-day visit he will be signing four bilateral agreements with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi from India.
He added that the agreements will be signed on the spheres of orbit frequency, an MOU between India and SL on the provision of medical equipment to the Vauniya General Hospital, MOU regarding the Indian Grant Assistance for the implementation of small development projects to local bodies. Also, grant assisstance agreement from India to the operation of emergency ambulances
He further added thay the visit of the Sri Lankan PM is viewed as another step taken by the new govternment appointed in SL to further strengthen relations with its closest neighbour India.
Shameer Rasooldeen also caught up exclusively with former Indian Diplomat and Congress Party MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor, on the sidelines of the Prime Minister’s visit.
Q. Mr. Tharoor, SL has seen change on January 8. It saw a new president taking oaths, internationally how do you view Sri Lanka’s position now?
A. Well, I think Sri Lanka’s stature in the international community has undoubtedly been enhanced by the robust assertion of its democracy . In Sri Lanka we forget that sometimes, because of the way in which the war crowded out perceptions of the country, has actually been a remarkable success story.
Q. Some say that the international community disliked former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. We saw the congress -led government giving a cold shoulder to the previous government as well. Over the last few months, have you seen a change?
A. Whatever little differences of strategic perception or of tactical perception there may be, on the whole our interest tends to be congruent.Therefore, I don’t want to over-estimate or exaggerate the differences. There were some differences. But I would see them more as differences of degree: rather than fundamental differences.
Now, certainly, with the present government of Mr Sirisena – President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, relations are very amicable indeed and I think that, amongst other things, there is a perception in Delhi that this is a government that is very conscious of India, the value of India’s friendship and respects that actions taken by Colombo should not be seen as unfriendly or undermining the actions of India.
Q. Both the President, that is Maithripala Sirisena and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s first overseas visit has been India what does this mean ?
A. Well, this only natural.We have so much in common and we are only right next door to each other. I believe that it is a very fine thing to do. But at the same time, it is a very natural thing to do. You may remember the era when every British Prime Minister elected would first travel to America and every American President elected would first travel to England – until Kennedy went to Ireland. The fact is that these are natural relationships which cant just be.
Q: However, the Indian Prime Minister did not visit Sri Lanka he chose otherwise.
Answer: (Laughs)Well, the Indian Prime Minister, I think the new one..had a need to establish a certain presence in the world stage. And that is what guided his intitial choises of destinantion.
Q: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s visit today, what sort of avenues would that open as far as Indo-Sri Lanka relations are concerned?
A: I hope all sorts of options, I mean in a relationship like ours, the complexity is in some ways simple because there is no closed door. We want obviously very intense economic and trade relations
Q: The Sri Lankan government has indicated that they want to closely work with the Indian Government – its closest neighbour. However, the Indian Government has not made its position clear yet. What is the position of the Indian Government on Sri Lanka?
A: I am sure that it will be made apparent in the course of this visit. There is already some very positive vibrations when President Sirisena came calling, and I think when Prime Minister Modi visited Sri Lanka, You all saw that there was a tremendous amount of affinity expressed and I think that this visit by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is likely to set seal on this.
Q: Is the Indian Government genuine in its interest on Sri Lanka in order to make Sri Lanka a better nation?
A: Absolutely, You know, India is not terribly, can we say preachy. It does not go around telling other countries what to do, how to do it. It would like to be of help, when Sri Lanka wants it and it would like to be of support for Sri Lanka if it seeks it. and as far as…
Q: Are you referring to the Sri Lankan Government or the Sri Lankan people?
A: Sri Lankan people. as far as I am concerned we think of them as our brothers. I honestly, dont see any tension at all with the Sri Lankan people. So, the Sri Lankan people are not the issue. If there is ever been any, slippage of understanding it has been government to Government.
Shameer Rasooldeen also stated that the PM would meet the National Security Advisor, the Foreign Minister the Minister of Highways and shipping. And also the President of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi.
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