Sirisena, Modi sign nuclear deal!

Sirisena, Modi sign nuclear deal!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff

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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, on his first overseas tour since winning an election last month, met Indian premier Narendra Modi and hailed his country’s close relations with India in a joint briefing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Sri Lanka’s new president held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 16 on his first foreign trip, trying to reset ties with the region’s powerhouse after strains over China’s growing influence on the island. Sri Lanka’s new leader is underlining India’s importance as a regional ally by making it his first official foreign destination as president, following years of uneasy relations with New Delhi and international pressure to speed up post-civil war reconciliation efforts at home.

The highlight of President Sirisena visit to New Delhi is a civilian nuclear pact India and Sri Lanka signed a civilian nuclear pact that would help the island nation meet its energy goals, a sign of improving bilateral ties. However, as the usual practice in nuclear diplomacy, they didn’t provide details on the deal.

Modi told reporters that the bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is another demonstration of our mutual trust. PM Modi said that India and Sri Lanka would also expand defense and security ties. The nations have shared interests in maritime security in the region. “India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and friend,” Modi said. “I believe that our destinies are interlinked. Our security and prosperity are indivisible.”

President Sirisena seems to have promised India to rebalance Sri Lanka’s foreign relations away from China.. This is the first such agreement that Sri Lanka has signed. It opens new avenues for cooperation. India offers more than five decades of experience in atomic energy. Its industry has built 5.8 gigawatts of capacity using mostly indigenous technology and plans to increase that to 62 gigawatts by 2032.

Colombo was considering help from India, Pakistan, Russia, France and the USA. Sri Lanka and India began talks on a civilian nuclear cooperation pact in 2012 and held another two rounds of talks last year. Sri Lanka is seeking to incorporate nuclear into its long- term energy plans to diversify from biomass, hydroelectricity and imported oil products.

Officials under his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had rankled India by suggesting that Pakistan—whose reactors have mostly been built by Chinese companies—may help it build nuclear power plants.

Chinese submarines docked twice in Colombo last year, triggering protests from India. The visits were for “replenishment purposes,” and Sri Lanka wouldn’t act against India’s security interests, V.K. Singh, deputy minister for external affairs, said in a written response to India’s parliament in November.

China has invested heavily in Sri Lanka infrastructure projects and supported Rajapaksa in the face of U.S.-led inquiries into human rights abuses allegedly committed during the end of a 26-year civil war.

India has long considered Sri Lanka to be within its strategic sphere of influence, sending troops to the island in 1987 to enforce a peace accord it brokered between Colombo and separatist Tamil rebels. Under Rajapakse China ploughed huge sums into Sri Lankan infrastructure projects, becoming the country’s biggest foreign financier and enjoying significant political and even military influence.

India was reported to have been furious at the brief appearance last year of two Chinese submarines in Sri Lankan waters. China has been accused of seeking to develop facilities around the Indian Ocean in a \”string of pearls\” strategy to counter the rise of its Asian rival India and secure its own economic interests. After meeting India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Sirisena began lunchtime talks with Modi at his residence in the capital.

Indian diplomats in Colombo said that Sirisena and Modi were expected to reach an agreement on cooperation in the civilian use of nuclear technology. This stems partly from Sri Lanka’s concerns that any disaster involving the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India’s Tamil Nadu state could have catastrophic consequences for the island too. Under the proposed agreement, India would provide technical assistance in education, training and disaster management.

China funded much of Sri Lanka’s post-war infrastructure under the Rajapakse administration but the new government has said the interest rates charged on the loans averaged between five and seven percent.

The nature of the rebalancing as it unfolds will also have significant implications on China’s efforts to project its power in the Indian Ocean Region. Analysts warn Sri Lanka not foolish enough to kick China out—not when billions of dollars of investment go with it—but will likely loosen its embrace.

As per the US policy of Asia Pivot that essentially means containment of China, India is also trying to push Sri Lanka to delete China from its nuclear plan provider list. Last month, Modi and US President Barack Obama announced a breakthrough on a long-stymied 2008 civilian nuclear agreement that could trigger an expansion of nuclear imports and projects. However, details are kept a top secret.

Reconstruction Minister D. M. Swaminathan said the government was keen to secure India’s support for ethnic reconciliation following the island’s decade-long ethnic war that ended in 2009. Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils share close cultural ties with the Tamils in Tamil Nadu. Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh boycotted a Commonwealth summit in Colombo in late 2013, partly to protest at the Rajapakse administration’s treatment of the Tamils.

PM Modi, who has made clear his desire to reassert India’s dominance in its own backyard, will travel to Colombo next month. India expects that President Sirisena would now look to reduce his country’s dependence on China.

Both India and Sri Lanka have decided to consolidate, deepen and strengthened further the relationship between the two countries.

President Sirisena is due to be guest of honour at a banquet thrown by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in the evening. Tomorrow the Lankan president will travel to the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya in Bihar and a Hindu temple in Tirupati (Tirumala) in AP further south before leaving for Colombo the next day.

A glance of Sirisena-Modi talks

Here are the highlights of PM Modi’s speech:

· Congratulate you (Sri Lanka President) on behalf of the people of India on your victory

· ​We are pleased to be Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner; I express my support for balanced trade in both directions

· President Sirisena and I had excellent discussion on bilateral relations and international issues

· The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is another demonstration of our mutual trust

· President and I attach the highest importance to the fishermen’s issue

· We will further improve air and sea connectivity between Sri Lanka and India

· The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is another demonstration of our mutual trust

· We agreed that there must be a constructive and humanitarian approach to the issue

· I thank the President for his invitation to visit Sri Lanka, eagerly looking forward to visiting his beautiful country in March

Here are the highlights of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s speech:

· PM Modi’s visit will be an honour and a blessing to our country

· We came to several conclusions to strengthen our friendship and ties between the 2 countries

· The relationship between the two countries will be strengthened further; we are now in the path of progress

Dr Abdul Ruff

Prolific writer, Educationist; Independent Analyst; Investigative journalist, Columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics; Expert on Mideast affairs, Chronicler of foreign occupations & freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.) Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); Commentator on world affairs & sport fixings, Former university teacher; Author of eBooks/books; *Editor: International Opinion, Foreign Policy; Palestine Times: website: http://abdulruff.wordpress.com/ email abdulruff_jnu@yahoo.com;Phone*: 91-7293435028 *Thanks the remuneration if sent to my State Bank of India - Account No: **62310377429 Bank Code: **SBIN0020731 *(Earlier it was State bank of Hyderabad)

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