Sri Lanka has got a fresh complaint from India – this time over delaying its development projects, only days after the giant neighbour sought clarification from President Maithripala Sirisena over serious allegations reportedly made against New Delhi that Colombo has staunchly denied.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed bitter disappointment and regret about the Sri Lankan Government constantly delaying Indian development projects in the island, and urged Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to pick up the pace, during talks between the two leaders in New Delhi yesterday.
The concerns were raised while the Government was still reeling from doing diplomatic damage control with India over remarks at the Cabinet meeting last Tuesday (16). In an unprecedentedly candid media release about the bilateral talks held at Hyderabad House in New Delhi last afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office said the Indian Prime Minister had expressed serious disappointment on Sri Lanka’s delays in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding signed on Economic Cooperation in April 2017.
Premier Modi said, he had spent the most of his time allocated to diplomatic matters, on Sri Lanka, and expressed his discontent over the response of the Sri Lankan government towards the assistance given by India, the release from Wickremesinghe’s office noted. The Indian Prime Minister requested the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to discuss, without hesitation, if there were any concerns or doubts about him or the Indian government.
The official release said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had stressed that neither he nor Sri Lankans have any doubt or issue about Premier Modi or the Indian Government. He further expressed his apology if any omission had created that kind of misunderstanding.
When he spoke with President Maithripala Sirisena about strengthening bilateral ties in Katmandu recently, the pair exchanged ideas about conducting all matters in line with the 2017 MOU, Prime Minister Modi had noted during the discussion.
The MoU on Economic Cooperation identifies certain areas of cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture and livestock, but specifically mentions the re-gasified LNG fired 500MW plant, an LNG Terminal with a floating re-gasification unit in Kerawalapitiya, a 15 MW solar power plant in Sampur and the Upper Tank Farm in Trincomalee – all to be jointly developed by India and Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s three day visit to India was specifically aimed at talks about these projects and the development of the Palaly airport, the Mattala airport and the East Container Terminal through India-led investments.
The critical comments from the Indian Prime Minister come in the backdrop of heated arguments reported at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers last week, specifically referring to the proposal to lease the Colombo East Container Terminal to an Indian joint venture company in line with these agreements for economic cooperation.
Extending his gratitude for the support extended by India, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe assured the Indian PM that he would take necessary steps swiftly to ensure that development projects were back on their original trajectory.
The two met at Hyderabad House as Premier Wickremesinghe concluded his three-day visit to India.
During the meeting, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “Special place in our hearts for Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes the Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe. At the delegation level talks, the leaders took stock of the entire range of our bilateral relations, especially the development projects in Sri Lanka.” There was no corresponding read out of the meeting from the Indian Prime Minister’s Office at the time of going to press, but highly placed sources said any official statement was unlikely to be quite as candid. Delighted to meet PM Ranil Wickremesinghe in Delhi today. We had fruitful discussions, reviewing our various aspects of India-Sri Lanka cooperation,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted from his official Twitter account.
Prior to that meeting, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe met Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. During the meeting with the former, the Prime Minister discussed security and anti-terror cooperation between India and Sri Lanka.
On Friday (19), Prime Minister Wickremesinghe met with Indian National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, another high level meeting during his visit. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka also met former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Friday, where they discussed ‘Freedom of Navigation in the Indian Ocean’.