September 15, 2015
Your Excellency Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,
Members of the media,
I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to you, Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe, and members of your delegation.
Let me congratulate you once again for leading the United National Front for Good Governance alliance to victory in last month's parliamentary elections.
We are deeply honoured that you have chosen India as your first overseas destination. It is a happy coincidence that your last full term as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister coincided with the first NDA Government.
We thank you for your belief in and steadfast support for India-Sri Lanka relations. You are deeply valued friend, whose vision for Sri Lanka’s progress and commitment to its pursuit is greatly admired in India.
This is a historic year for India-Sri Lanka relations as it is for Sri Lanka. We had the honour of hosting President Sirisena on his maiden visit abroad in February. I had the privilege of an extraordinary visit to Sri Lanka in March. Now, we have Prime Minister Wikramasinghe here.
Sri Lanka has voted twice this year for change, reforms, reconciliation and progress. There can be no stronger statement of Sri Lanka’s democratic tradition. There can be no clearer sign of Sri Lanka’s march towards a peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous future.
As a close neighbour and friend, we wish Sri Lanka every success; rejoice in your progress; and, assure you of India’s unwavering support.
So, we are pleased that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken a number of significant steps in recent times. The leadership has shown remarkable political unity at a time of great hope.
I am confident that with the wisdom and will of the leadership in Sri Lanka and the support of the people, Sri Lanka will achieve genuine reconciliation and development, so that all Sri Lankans, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, can live a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka.
Your progress is important for our two countries, South Asia and our maritime region.
Prime Minister and I had excellent discussions today.
We welcomed some significant developments in bilateral relations since March, including the currency swap arrangement. We also expressed hope that progress on key bilateral initiatives and projects will gather speed now.
We both want deeper economic engagement. We would like to see our trade grow and become more balanced for Sri Lanka. We discussed how we can achieve these goals in a more open and competitive Indian market, including through bilateral arrangements for trade and investments.
I also sought his support for Indian investors, who are keen to participate in Sri Lanka’s economic development, especially in infrastructure, energy and transport sectors.
I offered India’s full support to strengthen connectivity between our two countries to deepen human and economic links that will benefit all sections of our societies.
I assured Prime Minister Wickremesinghe of continuing commitment to our development partnership - in infrastructure, railways, energy, community development projects, agriculture, capacity building, science and technology, space and civil nuclear field.
We will continue to nurture people-to-people ties. We just finished an absorbing test series. We shall all miss the great Kumar Sangakara on the cricket field.
We recognise our closely aligned security interests and the need to remain sensitive to each other’s concerns. We both reaffirmed our commitment to deepen our defence and security cooperation.
We will intensify cooperation in combating terrorism and work together for security and stability in our maritime neighbourhood. Sri Lanka is our largest partner in defence training programme and we will continue to expand our cooperation in this area.
Prime Minister and I also discussed the fishermen issue. We agreed that fishermen's associations on both sides should continue their efforts to find a solution.
I conveyed to him that this should be seen as a humanitarian issue that affects livelihoods. I informed him of the steps we are taking to encourage Indian fishermen to take up deep sea fishing.
In conclusion, let me say that India and Sri Lanka have a huge stake in each other’s success, and in stability and development in our region.
This is a relationship that touches the hearts of ordinary Indians and Sri Lankans. It is also of great strategic importance to our two countries. With President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wikremesinghe, we can look to the future with great optimism.