India, Sri Lanka to double bilateral trade to USD 10 billion by 2016

New Delhi, Jan 22 (ANI): Recognising the need to build a special economic partnership framework to achieve the shared goals of poverty alleviation, job creation and economic development for the people of the two countries, India and Sri Lanka on Tuesday agreed to encourage closer economic and trade linkages between all stakeholders with a view to doubling bilateral trade to USD 10 billion in the next three years.

In this context, a Ministry of External Affairs release said that it was also agreed to initiate a dialogue between the Commerce Secretary of India and the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Sri Lanka at an early date to evolve a framework for a special economic partnership between the two countries.

The decision was taken during the eighth meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission here today. The meeting was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Sri Lankan counterpart Prof. G.L. Peiris. The Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) was preceded by the Senior Officials Meeting at the level of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries on Monday.

During the meeting, it was acknowledged that the substantial development assistance provided by the Government of India towards relief, resettlement and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and livelihood generation and reconstruction efforts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka has had a positive impact on the ground.

In this context, both sides welcomed the successful completion of the pilot project for construction of 1,000 houses for IDPs in the Northern Province in August 2012 and the launch of the next phase for construction/repair of remaining 49,000 houses on October 2, 2012.

It was noted with satisfaction that substantial progress has been made in implementation of the projects like repair and construction of hospital and schools, setting up of Vocational Training Centres, organization of artificial limb refitment camps, provision of fishing equipment, tractors, bicycles, trishaws, agricultural equipment and seeds, restoration of the Northern Railway lines and the Southern Railway Corridor, rehabilitation of the Kankesanthurai Harbour, rehabilitation of the Palaly Airport, among others.

Both sides also noted the impressive growth of tourism traffic between the two countries both ways. India currently contributed the largest number of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka and over 250,000 Sri Lankans visited India in 2011-2012.

It was agreed that with a view to enhance connectivity, people to people exchanges and movement of goods and services, the two sides would meet at the earliest to explore the possibility of finalizing and signing a revised Air Services Agreement, work towards the resumption of ferry services between Talaimannar and Rameswaram for which the Joint Committee on Ferry Services would meet at the earliest and hold the meeting of the Joint Working Group on Tourism in the first quarter to 2013 to identify potential areas of cooperation, including marketing and capacity-building.

Describing the Sampur Power Project as a landmark initiative, the two sides directed the officials concerned on both sides to work towards its implementation so that the project goes on-stream by 2016, and to expeditiously complete the joint study on establishing power inter-grid connectivity.

Both sides also agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in the areas of New and Renewable energy, and in this context agreed to conclude a MoU on Cooperation in New and Renewable Energy; to cooperate in establishing three power plants of aggregate capacity of 15 MW using biomass fuel; and enhance cooperation in wind and solar energy sectors.

It was also agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in the fields of oil and gas; civil nuclear energy; science and technology; and space technology. (ANI)