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Sri Lanka’s relations with China not at the expense of India : Foreign Minister

India’s support has made a “world of difference” to Sri Lanka’s economic situation, said Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, on his first visit to India since he was appointed last year, making it clear that the flurry of agreements announced in recent weeks have allowed the neighbours to move on from the problems of the “immediate past”.

In an interview to The Hindu, he cautioned, however that the unresolved conflict over fishing rights is a “constant irritant” in bilateral relations, and the recent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen that led to the death of two Sri Lankans, was a “flashpoint” in ties that he hopes to resolve through talks.

“There’s no doubt whatsoever that Indian support at this critical juncture has made a world of difference. It has helped us to tide over the immediate difficulties which were obviously acute,” Mr. Peiris told The Hindu, referring to a series of announcements, including one billion dollars in various lines of credit, a currency swap arrangement of $400 million and a debt deferral of $515 million for two months from India.

In addition, India and Sri Lanka concluded a long pending agreement to jointly develop oil tank facilities in Trincomalee, and have planned a number of infrastructure projects involving the private sector, which will be further discussed when Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa visits Delhi in the next few weeks.

 Sri Lanka has also invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the BIMSTEC summit in Colombo on March 30, and hold “substantive” bilateral talks.

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