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On 5th February, India and SriLanka reviewed the progress in their bilateral ties discussing various issues including the problems faced by fishermen, a major irritant in the relations, as the two countries signed MoUs in education and health sectors.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera discussed the entire relationship during the 9th Indo-Lanka Joint Commission meeting in Colombo chaired by them.
Officials said that the issues of fishermen was discussed by the two ministers and they also talked about the intricacies involved in it. India invited fisheries from Sri Lanka to visit India and Colombo accepted the invitation.
The Joint Commision meeting which lasted for more than two hours which discussed the issues of economic cooperation, trade,power and energy, technical and maritime cooperation, social, cultural and educational matters, science and technology,defence cooperation, health, civil aviation, tourism and face-to-face contact.
Two MoUs were signed after the meeting- one on renovation of 27 schools in the Tamil -dominated northern province and the other on building a building a surgical ward and to supply medical equipments. Sri Lanka also proposed partnership in a setting up a Special Economic Zone in Trincomalee and increase cooperation in aviation sector.
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Swaraj also met and talked with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe and proposed partnership in setting up a SEZ in Trincomalee. Wickremesinghe also proposed to make the Joint Commission meeting an annual affair. They also talked about state university linkages. The Joint Commission was set up in 1992 to address the issues of bilateral cooperation.
India maintains that the fishermen issue has a socio-economic dimensions, livelihood and humanitarian dimension and wants a long term solution to the problem. They also discussed about enhancing cooperation in aeronautical research and use of Indian Satellite system ‘Gagan’ by Sri Lanka.
They are working towards reconstituting CEOs forum. Officials also informed that Sampur power plant has got environment clearance. The two sides discussed about gaining cooperation in energy, railways,education, agriculture,defence,terrorism,healthcare and marketing traditional medicines.
India- Sri Lanka relations had seen downfalls during the last few years. The toes gained momentum after the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka in March last year, the first bilateral tour by an Indian premier in over 25 years.