Region’s people want peace, Modi tells Sirisena

Benaulim (Goa), Oct 16 (IANS) The solidarity shown by the countries of the South Asia region after the cross-border terror attack at an Indian army camp in Jammu and Kashmir has shown that people of the area wanted peace, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena here on Sunday.

Modi said the remark during a bilateral meeting with Sirisena who has come here to attend the BRICS-Bimstec Outreach Summit here.

“PM briefed President Sirisena on the Uri terrorist attack,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a media briefing, adding that Modi also expressed his gratitude for Sri Lanka sharing India’s grief.

The September 18 cross-border terror attack on an army camp at Uri claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers.

India has blamed the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack.

“He (Modi) said that as a result of the solidarity that the countries in the region had shown after the Uri terrorist attack, a message had gone across that people in our region want peace and they recognise that the biggest challenge to peace and prosperity is terrorism,” Swarup said at the briefing.

He said that Sirisena stated that “Sri Lanka firmly opposed all forms and manifestations of terrorism”.

Following the Uri attack, India, as host of this year’s BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit, chose to invite countries belonging to the Bimstec grouping over those of Saarc.

Countries belonging to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) are India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

As New Delhi has launched a diplomatic blitz to isolate Islamabad in the international community, the invitation to Bimstec countries instead of the Saarc countries is being seen as another step in this direction.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives are the members of the South Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) that are also not members of Bimstec.

Following the Uri attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pulled out of this year’s South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November citing Pakistan’s state sponsorship of terrorism as the reason.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan too followed suit citing the same reason while Sri Lanka held that a Saarc summit was not possible in India’s absence.

In Sunday’s meeting, the two leaders reviewed the development cooperation and partnership between India and Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lankan President Sirisena said the participation of all leaders of Bimstec will give new strength to Bimstec and for exploring synergies with BRICS countries,” Swarup said.

Stating that he was happy to be in India once again, Sirisena, according to Swarup, said this was another occasion when the bonds between India and Sri Lanka were further strengthened.

Sirisena briefed Modi about the rehabilitation progress in the Northern Province.

“Thereafter there was a discussion on the thorny issue of fishermen,” the spokesperson said.

“President Sirisena said he wanted a firm solution to the issue of the fishermen. PM agreed with him and said we must find a proper solution to this long-festering issue.”

The two leaders also reviewed bilateral cooperation in a whole host of areas, including energy and health.

“This was in the context of the Hatton hospital. The Sri Lankan President thanked PM for all the projects that India is implementing in Sri Lanka,” Swarup said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan@gmail.com)

–IANS

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