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* Sri Lankan President holds discussions with Indian Prime Minister
Tue, Mar 4, 2014, 07:52 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 04, Nay Pyi Taw: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held bilateral discussions this afternoon on the sidelines of the third BIMSTEC Summit in Myanmar.

The two leaders, who were in Myanmar to attend the third Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), held a close-door bilateral discussion on a number of issues of importance to both countries.

BIMSTEC is a regional grouping of seven South and South-east Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

During the friendly and cordial meeting that took place at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Nay Pyi Taw, the two leaders discussed a number of areas that were of mutual importance to both countries.

President Rajapaksa briefed Prime Minister Singh on the progress of the National Plan of Action (NPoA) for the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

The Indian Prime Minister asked about the interaction between the Government and the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) to which President Rajapaksa stated that the Government extends its cooperation to the NPC.

The two heads of state also discussed matters pertaining to the fishermen of both countries. In response to remarks by the Indian delegation, President Rajapaksa stated that it is a problem of considerable magnitude where almost 1,500 Indian fishing boats sail into Sri Lankan waters on a daily basis. He further told the Prime Minister that the use of bottom trawlers lead to a depletion of fishing resources, which ultimately adversely affects the northern fishermen.

The discussions also touched on other areas of mutual interest as well, including further strengthening ties between the two nations.

India's Minister of External Affairs Mr. Salman Khurshid accompanied the Prime Minister at the bilateral discussion.

Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Seneviratne and Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Myanmar H.R. Piyasiri were also present at the bilateral discussions.

This is the first meeting between the two leaders after the Indian Prime Minister bowing to the pressures from the Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu skipped the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo last November.

The meeting between Rajapaksa and Singh comes just after the United State-sponsored resolution was tabled at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday. India is expected to vote for the resolution as it did for the two previous resolutions on Sri Lanka tabled at the UNHRC in 2011 and 2012.

According to Indian political observers Prime Minister's meeting with the Sri Lankan President is a balancing diplomatic act since Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu are vehemently against any interaction with Sri Lanka and Singh is expected to respect the Tamil sentiments, especially in an election year.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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