India, Sri Lanka discuss fishermen issue, ink power agreement

Colombo, Oct 7 (IANS) India and Sri Lanka Monday discussed the issue of arrested Indian fishermen and also inked an agreement for setting up a 500 MW thermal power plant in Trincomalee with Indian assistance as Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid arrived here on a two-day visit.

Khurshid, in a press statement during a joint media interaction with his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris, said that both sides had agreed to on the need to handle the fishermen issue in a "humane manner without resorting to violence under any circumstances".

It was agreed to encourage fishermen's associations on both sides to meet and arrive at an understanding.

The two ministers also witnessed the signing of an agreement finalising the coal-based power plant that is to come up in Sampur, Trincomalee.

The project would be developed by Trincomalee Power Company -- an equal joint venture between India's National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

The India-Sri Lanka agreement would cover the areas of power purchase, land lease and coal supply.

Khurshid said work on the plant would be completed by 2016.

Both countries also signed an MoU for India's technical assistance in support of the 10-year national plan for a Trilingual Plan in Sri Lanka.

The plan envisages a trilingual Sri Lanka where Sinhala and Tamil speaking people would relate to each other in each other's languages and English will be a life skill for occupation and employment.

Khurshid hoped that "through the MoU for implementation of the Trilingual Plan, we will be able to contribute to this important initiative, thereby aiding national reconciliation and promoting harmony between the various linguistic communities in Sri Lanka".

He said India hoped the successful holding of elections to the Tamil-majority Northern Province would "usher in a new beginning towards a better future for the people in the north".

On the 13th amendment for devolution of more powers to the Northern Province, he said India looks "forward to an early resumption of the dialogue process, in order to address this issue in a timely manner".

Asked if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be attending next month's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Khurshid said an "announcement would be made at an appropriate time".

He said the announcement "will come from the Prime Minister's office. I am in touch with the minister (Peiris)".

Khurshid noted that bilateral trade in goods has expanded significantly to reach $5 billion mark and said he was "happy to note the significant contribution of India in the area of investments and tourist arrivals".

He is to call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa Tuesday morning and also visit Jaffna to review India's development assistance projects, including the flagship project to provide 50,000 housing units.

In his visit to the Northern Province, Khurshid would meet Governor, Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri, and the newly-elected Chief Minister C.V. Vigneswaran.


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