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* Indian Foreign Secretary assures continued support for Sri Lanka's North and East development
Sun, Mar 7, 2010, 08:34 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 07, Colombo: India expressed its satisfaction over the resettlement process and development programs in Sri Lanka's North and assured its continued support to the Sri Lankan government's efforts when Indian Foreign Secretary Ms. Nirupama Rao called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo today.

The visiting Indian official, who arrived in the country late Saturday night for a three-day visit met the President over lunch today at the President's House in Colombo.

Rao congratulating the President on his re-election for a second term said the already strong Indo-Sri Lanka relations will further be enhanced following the unique victory recorded by the President. India and Sri Lanka have mutual understanding in many sectors, she added.

Foreign Secretary noted that many positive changes towards strengthening democracy have occurred in Sri Lanka. The presence of more than 1,000 candidates for the forthcoming general election from the North and East alone shows the enthusiasm of the people for the democratic process, and the change that had taken place with the restoration of peace, Ms. Rao said.

Ms. Rao expressed her satisfaction for the government's resettlement of civilians displaced by the war in the North and conveyed India's willingness to continue assisting Sri Lanka in the resettlement process.

During the discussions Ms. Rao also stressed the need for a political settlement and devolution of powers to address the aspirations of the Tamil minority.

President Rajapaksa said the government hopes to achieve a significant development programme in the North and East with the help of the public representatives elected by the upcoming general election. The President thanked the Indian government for the support extended to reconstruct the Northern railway line.

Ms. Rao has also discussed the problems faced by fisherman from both countries and the proposed coal-based power generation project in Trincomalee, and the necessity for understanding between India and Sri Lanka on the protection of the environment and the eco-systems, a statement issued by the president's media unit said.

Later today the visiting Indian official is scheduled to formally open the Sri Lanka India Centre for English Language Training (SLICELT) in Peradeniya.

The Centre, supported by the Government of India and the ADB funded Education for Knowledge Society Project (EKSP) of the Education Ministry, is aimed at developing the English Language training in Sri Lanka.

This is Ms. Rao's first visit to the country since assuming the post of Foreign Secretary. She was Indian High Commissioner in Colombo from 2004 to 2006. She is also expected to meet Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and other senior political leaders before her departure to India on Monday.

Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha, President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lanka Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe also participated in the discussions.

(Pictures by Nalin Hewapathirana)

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