India and Sri Lanka today signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement which is seen as an effort by New Delhi to counter growing Chinese influence in the island nation.
This is the first such deal signed by Sri Lanka with any foreign country, reflecting the new Lankan government’s pro-India approach.
The pact was signed after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena who chose India for his maiden foreign visit after assuming charge following a bitter presidential poll.
Both the leaders also decided to expand defence and security cooperation between the two countries.
According to the nuclear deal, India will assist Sri Lanka in developing its civil nuclear energy infrastructure, including sharing of resources, training of personnel and extending expertise.
It will also facilitate cooperation in radioactive waste management and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection.
India’s ties with Sri Lanka had taken a hit during the rule of Sirisena’s predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa as China had expanded its footprint in the country by building ports, highways and participating in other infrastructure projects.
“The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is yet another demonstration of our mutual trust. This is the first such agreement Sri Lanka has signed,” Modi said in a joint press interaction with Sirisena.
Reflecting the growing momentum in ties, the Prime Minister said, “I believe that our destinies are inter-linked. Our security and prosperity are indivisible.”
“We welcomed the progress in our maritime security cooperation, including in the trilateral format with the Maldives,” he said.
63-year-old Sirisena, who had dethroned Rajapaksa from his 10-year rule after a bitter presidential poll, has already indicated that he wants to have a closer relationship with India.
Modi said they had “excellent discussions” on bilateral relations and international issues.
On the fishermen issue, Modi said he and the President attached the “highest importance” to it.
“It affects livelihoods on both sides. We agreed that there must be a constructive and humanitarian approach to the issue.
“We will encourage the fishermen’s associations on both sides to meet again soon. They should find a solution that can be taken forward by both governments,” he said.