Jaishankar wraps up visit to Sri Lanka; Indian mission describes his trip as 'huge success'

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Colombo, Jan 7 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday left for home after wrapping up his three-day visit to Sri Lanka during which he held 'constructive discussions' with the country's top leadership, which was described as a 'huge success'.

Jaishankar visited Colombo over three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa held a virtual summit in September during which the two sides agreed to further expand ties in a range of areas such as anti-terror cooperation, maritime security and trade and investment.

'Thank you @DCRGunawardena for hospitality and constructive discussions! Thank you @MFA_SriLanka for invaluable cooperation for making the visit of @DrSJaishankar a huge success. Will look forward to working closely for expeditious follow up,' the Indian High Commission in Colombo tweeted.

During his visit, Jaishankar held meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, several other ministers and Opposition leaders.

He assured them that India will always be a 'dependable partner and reliable friend' of Sri Lanka and said New Delhi is open to strengthening its relationship with Colombo on the basis of 'mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual sensitivity'.

Jaishankar conveyed warm greetings from Prime Minister Modi to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and discussed cooperation for post-COVID health and economic recovery.

'We are now looking at post-COVID cooperation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India,' said Jaishankar, who was here on his first foreign trip of the year. This was also the first by a foreign dignitary to Sri Lanka in the new year.

Sri Lankan leadership formally requested Indian assistance to obtain the COVID vaccine during meetings with Jaishankar.

Jaishankar also stressed on the cooperation between the two countries to ensure maritime security and safety. 'We stand ready to enhance Sri Lanka’s capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges,” he said, describing Sri Lanka as India’s closest maritime neighbour and partner.

On the last day of his visit, Jaishankar on Thursday met the Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka and discussed issues pertaining to the development and devolution and the role of provincial councils as part of national reconciliation.

Jaishankar earlier spoke on the need to ensure aspirations of the minority Tamils are addressed within a united Sri Lanka.

Addressing a joint media interaction with Gunawardena on Wednesday, Jaishankar underlined India's backing for Lanka's reconciliation process and an 'inclusive political outlook' that encourages ethnic harmony.

Jaishankar also held a 'productive meeting' with Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and reviewed bilateral cooperation in fisheries.

'We look forward to the early return of our fishermen from Sri Lanka,' Jaishankar said.

Fishermen from both countries are arrested frequently for inadvertently trespassing into each other's waters.

He also discussed India-Lanka bilateral ties with the Leader of Opposition, Sajith Premadasa, and the leader of United National Party, Ranil Wickeremesinghe.

The minister also interacted with business leaders of Lanka and appreciated their insights and suggestions on economic cooperation. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH