Colombo: Prime Minister Modi, on the first day of his two-day state visit to Sri Lanka on Friday, made it a point to impress upon Lankan leaders and businessmen that India has a new outlook that is positive and dynamic on political, developmental, economic and strategic issues relating to Lanka and the region.
In his address to Parliament here, he stressed the need for stepping up India-Lanka cooperation in diverse fields.
Modi underlined the need to foster and nurture ethnic diversity, since diversity consciously fostered will actually contribute to the strengthening of the nation as a whole. He was obviously hinting at the need to accommodate the Tamils and other minorities in the political structure of the island nation. “I believe in cooperative federalism,” Modi told the 225-member House in a message of great significance to Lankan leaders, who are struggling to come to grips with giving equitable political representation to different ethnic groups, particularly Tamils, the largest minority.
Calling for the full implementation of the devolution package contained in the India-inspired 13th Amendment of the Lankan Constitution, and going beyond it, Modi said he is a believer in states’ (provinces’) rights and has been promoting states’ rights.
On the all important fishing issue, he said: “This complex issue involves livelihood and humanitarian concerns. We should handle it from this perspective. At the same time we need to find a long term solution to this issue.”
While announcing Indian aid of several million US dollars for Lanka’s petroleum and railways sectors, Modi pleaded for greater give and take through a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
Addressing Lanka’s fear of being economically swamped by a bigger and stronger India through CEPA, Modi said that differences in size and capabilities do not stand in the way of beneficial cooperation and gave examples of Bhutan and Nepal having fruitful economic relations with India. Modi also appealed to Lanka to see India differently now given the changes in its policies and the manifestation of a new dynamic energy.
Calling for cooperation to fight global terrorism he said security is not divisible.
Speaking to the Tamil National Alliance, Modi called for a change in their strategy to take into account the change in the government in Lanka. The new government is looking at the Tamil issue helpfully and it should be given more time to sort it out, he said.
Elaborating on the talks he held with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Modi said the Lanka Indian Oil Corporation and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have agreed to jointly develop the Upper Tank Farm at China Bay in Trincomalee.