India, Sri Lanka agree to strengthen bilateral security framework

      Condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday agreed to consolidate security and legal framework of their bilateral relationship and signed two agreements in this context. On the second day of his four-day State visit to India, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa met the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh that was followed by delegation level talks. "Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They also agreed to strengthen the security and legal framework of their bilateral relationship. To this end, the leaders witnessed the signing of a 'Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters' and 'Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners'," stated a joint statement on Wednesday evening. Earlier today, the President Rajapaksa was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Sri Lankan President was received by the President of India, Pratibha Patil, who hosted a banquet in his honour. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa. "During their meet, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was apprised about the measures taken by the Sri Lankan Government to bring about a rapid and sustainable resettlement of the bulk of the IDPs. It was stated that the process of resettling the limited number still remaining in the transit facilities would be further expedited," a joint statement said after bilateral talks held between India and Sri Lanka today. "Both leaders agreed on the urgent need for the resettlement of the remaining IDPs, along with speedy rehabilitation, reconstruction and development in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. They agreed to work closely towards this end," the statement added. Sri Lanka, in this context, greatly appreciated India's assistance to rebuild infrastructure, including railway infrastructure and set up several Vocational Training Centres. Besides, it also appreciated Indian assistance in repairing and constructing schools, houses, stadium and recreational facilities, supplying much-needed inputs for agricultural regeneration and undertaking several other projects. President Rajapaksa warmly welcomed the offer of Indian support for this programme. Earlier, Prime Minister Dr. Singh congratulated President Rajapaksa on his recent electoral victories and conveyed that the recent elections, together with the cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka in May 2009, provided a historic opportunity for the country's leaders to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation and to work towards genuine national reconciliation. Dr. Singh emphasised that a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement. President Rajapaksa reiterated his determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all communities that would act as a catalyst to create the necessary conditions in which all the people of Sri Lanka could lead their lives in an atmosphere of peace, justice and dignity, consistent with democracy, pluralism, equal opportunity and respect for human rights. Dr. Singh expressed India's constructive support for efforts that build peace and reconciliation among all communities in Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa during his meet with the Indian PM appreciated India's substantial and generous assistance including through a grant of Rupees 500 crore for the humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). "The steps taken by India for humanitarian assistance, including supply of family packs of food and clothing, medicines, setting up of a field hospital and an artificial limb fitment camp and for the resettlement of IDPs, including provision of shelter material, cement bags and agricultural implements and deployment of de-mining teams, were important and timely," President Rajapaksa noted. India and Lanka also made a joint commitment to build 50,000 more houses for the Island nation's internally displaced persons. Emphasising the impact of the recently concluded civil war on the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka, both President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh committed their respective governments to this endeavour on a priority basis. A joint statement issued after bilateral talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi this afternoon said: "Both the leaders announced a major initiative to undertake a programme of construction of 50,000 houses for Internally Displaced Persons in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka."

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