Sri Lanka, India ink MoUs for defence, economic, education, religious links
Tightening the defence, economic, education, religious and cultural ties, multiple agreements were inked on the first day of Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Sri Lanka.
Meeting the three Rajapaksa brothers — President Gotabaya, Prime Minister Mahinda and Finance Minister Basil, as well as and Forign Minister G. L. Peiris ,S. Jaishankar signed six MoUs that are vital for the two countries and future cooperation.
On the security front, an MoU was signed to establish a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) with a grant of $6 million from India.
Built by the Indian government-owned aerospace and defence electronics company, Bharath Electronics, with the project India is to provide three Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka and a 4,000 MT floating barge to Sri Lanka Navy.
The MRCC is to be set up inside the Sri Lanka Navy Headquarters and seven other sub-units are to be positioned around the country including one in Southern city of Hambantota, where the China-run harbour is located.
A separate MoU was signed to implement the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity (SL-UDI) programme on a grant of Rs 30 crore.
However both the projects were criticised by Sri Lanka’s opposition and activists claiming that the government was selling the country’s national resources at a cost of national security.
They claimed that through the MRCC, the entire airspace is sold to India under the guise of a security system and positioning of even sub-units in naval bases covering entire Indian ocean around Sri Lanka is calling for a geopolitical war with China.
Sri Lanka and India have agreed to implement several strategically important projects including Hybrid Power Projects in three islands in Jaffna, Unique Digital Identity (SL-UDI) scheme, and Development of Fisheries Harbours in Sri Lanka.
The two countries have entred into these agreements by signing six Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) for the implentaion of strategically important projects in the presence of Visiting External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr. S.Jaishankar and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L Peiris in Colombo on Monday 28.
One of the most important projects was the hybrid power plants in Jaffna, which was initially awarded to MS/Sinosar–Etechwin Joint Venture in China.
During the ongoing visit, Dr. S. Jaishankar assured India’s continued support in Sri Lanka’s economic recovery process.
He reiterated that India’s partnership with Sri Lanka was rooted in the ‘Neighbourhood First’ approach and S.A.G.A.R (Security And Growth for All in the Region) doctrine and that India has stood by Sri Lanka in the hour of its need, foreign ministry sources said.
The six MoUs are as follows
§ MOU for the establishment of modern computer labs and smart boards with customized curriculum software in 200 schools in the Galle district.
§ MOU on the implementation of the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity (SL-UDI) programme with the Government of India’s Grant Assistance.
§ MOI between the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Services (SSIFS), India, and the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute (BIDTI).
§ MOU for providing Marine Rescue Coordinating Center (MRCC).
§ MOU on the implementation of Hybrid Power Projects in three islands in Jaffna.
§ MOU on Cooperation in Development of Fisheries Harbours in Sri Lanka.
Following the talks with Minister G. L Peiris, Dr. Jaishankar noted that “he held productive talks with Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris of Sri Lanka.”
“Discussions were centred on economic recovery, development partnership, mutual security, fishermen’s issues, and international coordination,” he added.