The Eighth Session of the Sri Lanka–India Joint Commission was held on 22 January 2013 in Delhi. It was co–chaired by Shri Salman Khurshid, Hon´ble Minister of External Affairs of India and Hon´ble Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka. The agreed agenda of the meeting is at Annexure–1. The lists of the Indian and Sri Lankan delegations are, respectively, at Annexure–2 and Annexure–3.
The discussions at the Joint Commission were cordial and marked by a spirit of mutual respect and understanding. The two sides acknowledged that the shared cultural and civilisational heritage, the extensive people–to–people interaction, the shared interests and the common strategic concerns provided the strong foundation required to build a vibrant and multi–faceted partnership. India–Sri Lanka relations now encompass the entire gamut of the spectrum, including trade, services and investment, development cooperation, science and technology, culture and education.
The Joint Commission reviewed developments in bilateral relations since the 7th session of the India–Sri Lanka Joint Commission held at Colombo on 26 November 2010 and noted with satisfaction that the agreements reached during the visit to India of H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in June 2010, the subsequent high–level exchanges at the Ministerial level and the visit of H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa to New Delhi in September 2012, provided the framework for further development of India–Sri Lanka relations in the coming years. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of the Joint Commission as a viable mechanism to monitor implementation of bilateral understandings.
ECONOMIC & DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION, TRADE, FINANCE & INVESTMENT
The Joint Commission reiterated the need to build a more comprehensive economic partnership to achieve the shared goals of poverty alleviation, job creation and economic development for the people of both countries. The meeting noted that the bilateral trade turnover between the two countries had crossed the US $ 5 billion mark in 2011–12 and that India was Sri Lanka´s leading trade partner globally and Sri Lanka was India´s largest trade partner in South Asia.It was agreed that there was considerable potential to expand bilateral trade, through trade facilitation measures and optimal utilisation of the complementarities between the two economies. Towards this objective, the two sides reviewed investment proposals under consideration in both countries. The Joint Commission welcomed the growing interest of Indian and Sri Lankan companies to invest in each other´s markets, noting that more needed to be done to create an optimally supportive framework in this regard at both ends. The Joint Commission noted that the thrust area should be to establish greater linkages in trade, tourism and investment.
The two sides also took note of the visit of Hon. Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce, Industry & Textiles, Government of India, to Sri Lanka in August, 2012, during which both sides decided to take several steps to further deepen trade and investment relations, and Sri Lanka welcomed Indian investments, inter alia, in the manufacture of automobile parts, pharmaceuticals, textiles and engineering products. In this context, it was agreed that the Joint Task Force constituted by the two Governments would meet at the earliest to discuss these proposals. The two sides agreed to cooperate closely to forge closer economic and trade linkages and take steps to double the bilateral trade to reach US $ 10 billion in next three years.Both sides agreed to consider working towards increasing Sri Lanka´s export capacity.
The two sides welcomed the signing of the Revised Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and expressed hope that the proposed MoU on Customs Cooperation could also be concluded at an early date.
SPECIAL ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP
The Joint Commission acknowledged the considerable benefits accruing to both sides under the India–Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA). It recalled the agreement at the previous session of the Joint Commission to implement the understanding contained in the bilateral Joint Declaration of 9 June 2010 to build on this achievement through a more comprehensive framework of economic cooperation tailored to suit the needs of both countries. It was agreed to convene talks between the Commerce Secretary of India and the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Planning and Economic Development of Sri Lanka at an early date to initiate a dialogue on a special economic partnership between the two countries. Both sides agreed to hold intensive consultations towards forging a special economic partnership for comprehensive and sustained economic cooperation.
The Joint Commission welcomed the convening of the first meeting of the India–Sri Lanka CEOs´ Forum on 4 August 2012 at Colombo and expressed hope that the Forum would help bring together the public and private sectors in the two countries to generate ideas to enhance the scope and the quality of the engagement between the businesses of the two countries.It was agreed that the second meeting of the CEOs´ Forum could be held in the third quarter of 2013 at a mutually convenient time and venue.
The Joint Commission reviewed the utilization of the existing Lines of Credit (LOC) offered by the Government of India to the Government of Sri Lanka, in particular those pertaining to the rehabilitation of the Northern Railway lines (US $ 800 million). Both sides agreed to facilitate the completion of the project as per schedule.The Joint Commission also took note of the in–principle approval by the Government of India to extend a Line of Credit amounting to US $ 200 million for the construction of a jetty at Sampur, a transmission line from Sampur to Habarana on mutually agreeable terms and conditions, and towards financial support for the equity share of Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) in the joint venture with NTPC to develop a coal–fired power plant at Sampur.The Joint Commission also took note of the finalisation of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the rehabilitation of the Kankesanthurai Harbour and the offer made by the Government of India to extend a line of credit for the rehabilitation project after completion of the dredging work by Dredging Corporation of India, under a grant–funded project of the Government of India. The Sri Lankan side agreed to expedite its response regarding its plan to rehabilitate the piers and the berthing infrastructure at the port, so as to restore its full functionality as a commercial port.
It was noted that Sri Lanka expressed appreciation for the Credit facility extended by the EXIM Bank of India to support a drinking water project in Sri Lanka, on soft credit terms. The Indian side conveyed willingness to facilitate similar credit opportunities through EXIM Bank of India, for projects of importance to the Government of Sri Lanka.
The Joint Commission noted the appreciation of the Government of Sri Lanka for the successful completion of the project ahead of schedule, for rehabilitation of the Southern Railway Corridor from Kalutara to Matara, under an Indian Line of Credit amounting to US $ 167.4 Mn. The Joint Commission reviewed progress on the Northern Railway projects being implemented by Sri Lanka Railways through IRCON. It expressed satisfaction that, in addition to the contracts signed earlier for the Omanthai–Pallai, Madhu Road–Talaimannar, and Medawachchiya–Madhu Road segments, the contracts for the Pallai–KKS segment and for signalling and telecommunication equipment on all these segments had been signed, amounting to a total value of US$ 652.26 Mn. The Joint Commission took note that all the five projects are expected to be completed by the end of December 2013, well ahead of the completion dates. The Joint Commission also noted that the procurement of rolling stock from India would take place in a phased manner, taking into account the overall needs of the railways sector in Sri Lanka.
Tourism, Civil Aviation and Connectivity
The Joint Commission noted with satisfaction the impressive growth of tourism traffic between the two countries, and the fact that India currently contributed the largest number of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka and that the latter was among the top ten tourist arrivals in India.It was agreed that there was considerable potential to enhance these numbers through more investments, targeted marketing and greater connectivity.Noting the importance of connectivity and the free movement of people, goods and services in the South Asian region, and the fact that current levels of connectivity between India and Sri Lanka are amongst the best in the region, the Joint Commission took the following decisions:
i. To hold in the first quarter of 2013 the meeting of the Joint Working Group set up under the MoU on cooperation in the Field of Tourism and to identify potential areas of cooperation, including marketing and capacity–building.
ii Civil Aviation officials from the two sides would at the earliest to review the provisions of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement so as to explore the possibility of signing a new and upgraded Civil Aviation Agreement.
iii. To expedite the resumption of ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and also Talaimannar and Rameswaram and to complete the processes and put in place the necessary infrastructure to start these services as soon as possible.
iv. To encourage further cooperationbetween the two countries in the development of the ports sector.
v. To explore the feasibility of establishing physical connectivity across the Palk Straits.
Sri Lanka side expressed its appreciation to the Government of India for its leading role as a development partner and the substantial development assistance provided through a wide variety of projects. It was recognised that India´s assistance to the people of Sri Lanka has been extended in a phased and timely manner based on requirements on the ground. It was noted that Indian development assistance projects have supported rehabilitation, resettlement and well–being of displaced persons in the areas of shelter (through donation of roofing sheets & cement bags and reconstruction & repair of houses under the Indian Housing Project for 50,000 houses), health–care (providing emergency medical relief, organizing artificial limbs refitment camps and equipping hospitals), livelihood generation (provision of fishing equipment, tractors, bicycles, trishaws, agricultural equipment and seeds), education (repairs of 79 schools, distribution ofcomputers & printers to schools, establishing nenashalas, supply of buses to educational institutions and setting up of vocational training centres) all being outright grant aid, as well as projects under Lines of Credit for infrastructure development (restoration of Northern Railway lines, rehabilitation of Palaly Airport and KKS Harbour).
The Joint Commission expressed satisfaction over the successful completion of the pilot project for construction of 1,000 houses for IDPs in the Northern Province.The two sides welcomed the launch of the second phase of the housing project on 2 October 2012 under the owner–driven model for construction/repair of 43,000 houses in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.It was noted that this phase was progressing well and there was a degree of satisfaction among beneficiaries, local community and other stakeholders with the implementation mechanism put in place by the two Governments. The two sides agreed to expedite processes for implementation of the third phase of the housing project involving construction of 4,000 houses for estate workers in Central & Uva Provinces as well of 2,000 houses for most vulnerable sections in the Northern & Eastern Provinces.
The two sides expressed satisfaction with the existing modalities for implementation of development assistance projects, particularly those set up under the MOU on Small Development Projects (SDP). It was noted that under the SDP scheme in the past few years, projects at the grassroots level have been implemented in a timely and effective manner which had provided a further fillip to development assistance efforts.
The Joint Commission noted the considerable potential for the further expansion of bilateral agricultural cooperation and collaboration in livestock development between the two countries. They noted that the MoU for Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Sri Lanka Council for Agriculture Research Policy (SLCARP) had yielded sound results, including in human resource development. The Joint Commission directed the officials concerned to finalise the biennial work programme between ICAR and SLCARP for the period 2013–2014 at the earliest.
The two Ministers expressed satisfaction on the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Agricultural Cooperation on 17 January 2012 and directed the officials on both sides to set up the Joint Committee andwork out a Programme of Cooperation for the period 2013–2014, with a view to catalyse collaborative research and development programmes.
The Indian side agreed to favourably consider requests from the Sri Lankan side for providing Coconut germplasm.
The two Ministers expressed satisfaction that NTPC and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had successfully signed the Joint Venture and Shareholder Agreement on 6 September 2011 in Colombo for setting up a 500 MW coal based power station at Sampur in Trincomalee District of Sri Lanka. They noted that a Joint Venture Company (JVC) was incorporated in Sri Lanka on 26 September 2011, with equal equity (50:50) contributions by NTPC and CEB, for implementation of the Power Project, which was a landmark initiative and was likely to be the largest Joint Venture project being undertaken by the two countries. The two Ministers directed the officials on both sides to expeditiously complete negotiations on the outstanding issues and sign the relevant Agreements in the first quarter of 2013 with a view to have the project go on–stream by 2016.
The Sri Lankan side agreed to consider issuance of Approvals under the provisions of the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Act, No. 35 of 2007 for the Indian proposals regarding renewable energy projects of aggregate capacity of 15 MW using biomass fuel if such developers fulfilled the requirements laid down under the provisions of the aforesaid Act. The two sides noted the presence of Indian suppliers in the Sri Lankan wind and solar energy sectors and agreed to explore cooperation in other fields of new and renewable forms of energy, including through greater cooperation between the public and private sector entities of the two countries in the fields of capacity–building, technical and consultancy assistance and sourcing of equipment. In this context, both sides agreed to conclude a MoU on Cooperation in New and Renewable Energy.
The Joint Commission also recalled the signing of the agreement on conducting a feasibility study for the interconnection of the Indian and Sri Lankan electricity grids and noted that the feasibility study was in final stages and the officials concerned were in touch to arrive at an optimal technological and financial option for the interconnection of grids. The two Ministers directed the concerned officials to complete the process expeditiously and taking further steps to convene a meeting of the Steering Committee to adopt the feasibility report and submit it to the two Governments for final approval for implementation.
The Joint Commission agreed to enhance cooperation in the field of oil and gas exploration and Indian companies would be encouraged to participate actively in future oil and gas exploration activities in Sri Lanka.
The Joint Commission took note of the first round of talks between India and Sri Lanka on comprehensive civil nuclear cooperation held on 12 October 2012 in New Delhi. The Joint Commission reaffirmed the commitment of both sides to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the uses of civil nuclear technology for peaceful purposesfor the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries and agreed that the two sides would work towards a comprehensive Agreement on Bilateral Civil Nuclear Cooperation. The Indian side reiterated its invitation for the visit of the Chairman, Atomic Energy Authority of Sri Lanka to BARC and suggested that the visit can take place at the earliest mutual convenience. It was agreed that 2nd round of talks would be held in March 2013 in Sri Lanka.
Science and Technology
The Joint Commission underlined the need to enhance cooperation in the area of science and technology and in this context, welcomed the signing of a Programme for Cooperation (POC) between the Ministry of Technology and Research, Sri Lanka and the Department of Science and Technology, India for the period 2011–2014. It welcomed the successful completion of the process of identification of nine Research proposals and two workshops to be implemented jointly.It was agreed that the Joint Science and Technology Committee established in terms of the PoC would meet on 22–23 April 2013 at Colombo to examine new areas to revitalise cooperation in this sector.
The Joint Commission recalled the understanding reached between the leadership of both the countries in the India–Sri Lanka Joint Declaration of 9 June 2010 to promote the use of space technology for a variety of societal services using Indian satellites. It was recalled that the Indian side had in 2010 shared a concept paper on "Space Technology for Societal Services in Sri Lanka using Indian satellites". The two Ministers directed the officials of both the countries to identify the areas of cooperation in space technology during the forthcoming meeting of the Joint Science and Technology Committee to be held 22–23 April 2013 at Colombo.
The Joint Commission reviewed the projects being implemented in the health sector in Sri Lanka with the assistance of the Government of India. It welcomed the completion of the civil workfor the construction of 150–bed Base Hospital at Dickoya and noted that, once the installation of the equipment is completed, the hospital will become fully functional in 2013. It also noted with satisfaction the successful implementation by India of projects to supply equipment for upgradation of ICU and other facilities at the District hospitals in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu and the commencement of the project for the construction of a 200–bed ward complex at Vavuniya. The Sri Lankan side agreed to expedite the relevant arrangements for receiving the Bhabatron–II Cobalt–60 Teletherapy Machine donated by the Government of India for the Hambantota General Hospital.It also thanked the Government of India for organising the second ´Jaipur Foot´ Limb fitment camp in October 2011, in response to the request made at the previous Joint Commission meeting on 26 November 2010.
The Joint Commission noted that both sides are committed to decrease incidents pertaining to fishing on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).. Both countries agreed that the use of force could not be justified under any circumstances and reiterated in this regard the importance of continuing to extend humane treatmentto all fishermen.Both sides welcomed the decisions arrived at the two meetings of the Joint Working Group on Fishing held in March 2011 and January 2012 respectively, and encouraged senior officials to meet regularly to continue the dialogue to strengthen cooperation on fishing related issues.
SOCIAL, CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL MATTERS
The Sri Lankan side thanked the Indian side for significantly expanding its scholarship programme for Sri Lankan nationals as part of the "India Sri Lanka Knowledge Initiative".Under this scheme, announced on 19 January 2012, the number of scholarships and Self–Finance slots for Undergraduate/Masters/PhD Courses was increased from the existing 113 slots to 270 per year. In addition, scholarship support to deserving students pursuing their GCE ´A´ level and University degrees in Sri Lanka was expanded to cover about 500 students annually.
The Ministers took note of the successful establishment of the Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies at the University of Colombo in February 2012.
The two sides also directed their concerned officials to complete the ongoing project for setting up nine Provincial Centres for English Language Training.It also called for finalisation of the MoU for cooperation in connection with the "Ten Year Presidential Initiative to Steer Sri Lanka towards a Trilingual Society by 2020".
The Sri Lankan side thanked the Government of India for the in–principle approval to provide assistance for the establishment of Agriculture and Engineering Faculties in the Kilinochchi Campus of the University of Jaffna, at an estimated cost of LKR 500 million and requested that further steps be taken to implement the project at the earliest. It also thanked the Government of India for its assistance in the field of skills development, through the successful setting up of Vocational Training Centres in the Eastern and Central Provinces.
The Joint Commission took note of the collaborative initiatives in the field of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) between the two sides, in particular the increasing presence of Indian companies in the Sri Lankan ICT sector anddecided to encourage greater cooperation between the public and private sector entities of the two countries. The two Ministers agreed to review the MOU signed between the two sides in 2003 for cooperation in the field of IT and directed the officials to take necessary steps to carry forward the agenda for cooperation identified in the MoU.The Indian side encouraged the Sri Lankan side to take advantage of the 200 training slots offered by Infosys for training of Sri Lankan IT professionals at Mysore.
The Joint Commission noted with satisfaction the ongoing cooperation in the field of strengthening public administration, based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) and the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA). The Joint Commission encouraged the two institutions to intensify their collaboration, including in the exchange of staff, researchers and graduate students/trainees, engagement in joint research activities and participation in seminars and academic meetings and expressed the hope that this successful model of cooperation could be replicated for other institutions of learning and training.
The Ministers also directed the concerned officials to expedite the finalisation of the MoU between the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and the Department of Open Distance Learning in Sri Lanka and encouraged the organisation of more ´Education Fairs´ in Sri Lanka.
The Joint Commission welcomed the growing cultural engagement between the two countries and commended the various activities organized to commemorate the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhatva Jayanthi). The Sri Lankan side thanked the Government of India for organizing the exposition of the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics from 19 August to 12 September 2012.
The Joint Commission reviewed the progress on the project for restoration of Tiruketheeswaram temple at Mannarbeing undertaken with the assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India and the College of Architecture and Sculpture, Mamallapuram, and the involvement of the Department of Archaeology of Sri Lanka. It welcomed the signing of the MoU for Restoration of Thiruketheeswaram Temple between the High Commission of India and the Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society (TTRS) on 17 October 2011 and the subsequent steps taken by the Indian side, to operationalise the same.
The two Ministers also reviewed the progress regarding the work on renovating the Duraiappah Stadium.
The two Ministers took note of the successful completion of the national design competition in cooperation with Sri Lanka Institute of Architects to select a design for the Jaffna Cultural Centre. They expressed hope that the inter–governmental MoU for construction of the Jaffna Cultural Centre under Government of India assistance could be concluded at the earliest, so that next steps for implementation could proceed apace.
The two Ministers noted the successful completion of the series of events organised for the joint commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore during the year–long celebrations which took place in 2011–12, and appreciated the initiative to bring out a commemorative volume on Rabindranath Tagore.It was also agreed that both sides would collaborate to jointly celebrate the 150th birth anniversaries of Swami Vivekananda (in 2013–14) and of Anagarika Dharmapala (in 2014–15).
India Sri Lanka Foundation
The Joint Commission welcomed the significant contributions made by the India–Sri Lanka Foundation and its important role in forging deeper links between civil society actors in the two countries and contributing to closer relations in the economic, scientific, educational, technical and cultural arenas.
Recognising that the security interests of the two countries were interlinked, both sides welcomed the ongoing close engagement in the field of defence and security. In this context, they welcomed the launching of the Annual Defence Dialogue in January 2012 and institution of service specific staff talks. It was hoped that the forthcoming Annual Defence Dialogue would explore possibilities to further strengthen this cooperation.
The Ministers welcomed the signing of the Agreement on Combating International Terrorism and Illicit Drug Trafficking.
The Joint Commission also reviewed the implementation of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters, and agreed to expedite signing a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Civil Matters.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the ongoing programmes for cooperation in the field of training and capacity–building.
The Ministers noted that the trilateral cooperation mechanism between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives was an important initiative to promote maritime security in the region.
The Joint Commission reviewed consular and visa matters and agreed to institute a structured dialogue on these matters.
The Joint Commission also reviewed the status of the Sri Lankan refugees in India and agreed to work together to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to Sri Lanka.
Both sides expressed their satisfaction at the outcome of the Joint Commission Meeting, which provided further testimony to the continuing excellent relations between the two countries. It was agreed that the next session of the Joint Commission would be held in Sri Lanka in the first half of 2014 on a date to be mutually agreed upon between the two sides.The External Affairs Minister of India accepted the invitation extended by the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister to visit Sri Lanka in the first half of 2013 and suggested that mutually convenient dates be worked out through diplomatic channels.
Signed on the 22nd day of January 2013 in New Delhi.
(Salman Khurshid )
2.Adoption of Agenda
3. Discussion on Agenda Points:
A. Trade Cooperation
B. Social, Cultural and Educational Matters
C. Science and Technology
D. Other issues
4. Agreed Minutes