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India, Sri Lanka sign pacts on security and power

Countries discuss political settlement of the Tamil issue

Gulf News

New Delhi: India and Sri Lanka Wednesday inked seven agreements, including key pacts on security and power, as Colombo reassured New Delhi about its plans to quickly resettle displaced Tamils and to seek a political solution to the ethnic issue.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held wide-ranging delegation-level talks with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse and conveyed India's concerns over the plight of displaced Tamils and pressed for a political settlement of the Tamil issue, official sources said.

The two leaders also discussed a host of bilateral and global issues, including an expansion of economic ties, energy security and increased cooperation in areas of development and counter-terrorism.

Rajapakse reassured Singh about Colombo's plan to expeditiously resettle the displaced Tamils who continue to live in refugee camps.

He briefed Singh about steps taken by his government to forge a consensus on a political solution to the ethnic conflict revolving around devolution of powers to the minorities, the sources said.

After the talks, the two sides signed seven pacts to boost bilateral cooperation across a range of areas, including security, energy, railways and cultural exchange.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on interconnecting electricity grids of the two countries could mean power supply of 1,000 MW will go a long way in improving the situation in power-starved island country.

The pact envisages conducting feasibility studies to ensure power supply to Sri Lanka that continues to suffer due to war-ravaged electricity infrastructure. Deep sea power cables could be used to integrate the grids of the two countries.

Legal assistance

Two MoUs were inked on the transfer of sentenced persons and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters that aim at enhancing counter-terror cooperation between the two countries.

A pact on laying Talaimannar-Madhu rail link was also signed. Increased development cooperation was reflected across other pacts that included an MoU on special projects and setting up of a women's trade facilitation and community learning centre by SEWA, an Ahmedabad-based NGO.

Rajapakse arrived in India on a four-day visit on Tuesday evening, his first trip to New Delhi since being re-elected Sri Lanka's president in January this year. He began his state visit to India with a ceremonial reception accorded to him at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace.

Around 80,000 displaced Tamils continue to live in relief camps over a year after the Sri Lankan troops militarily crushed the insurgency led by Tamil Tigers.

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