New Delhi - India has asked Sri Lanka to continue dialogue with the Tamil community to ensure a future for them that is marked by "equality, dignity and justice", and also expressed hope for early progress on "meaningful devolution" of powers to Tamil majority areas.
Addressing a joint media conference with visiting Sri Lanka Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also emphasized on the safety of fishermen of both countries.
The two countries Tuesday held the eighth meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission and also inked three agreements, including on avoidance of double taxation and combating international terrorism and illicit drug trafficking.
"Given the vast untapped potential, we have stressed the need for intensive consultations towards a more comprehensive framework for economic cooperation," said Khurshid and added that the two sides have discussed building of a special economic partnership.
The two countries are planning to set up a Special Economic Zone in Trincomalee and a pharmaceutical and a textiles cluster in Sri Lanka.
The Joint Commission agreed on the need "to extend humane treatment and to abjure violence against fishermen of our two countries". Both sides also emphasized the need to "continue to ensure that violence is not resorted to under any circumstances".
India also committed itself to the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka.
"Projects of bilateral development assistance have progressed well, including construction of 50,000 houses for IDPs, with the fullest cooperation of the government of Sri Lanka," the Joint Commission said.
Khushid said India also raised the issue of Tamils in the island nation.
"I have referred to the need for continued dialogue between the government of Sri Lanka and the representatives of the Sri Lankan Tamil community, with a view towards ensuring a future for the Tamil community that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect all of which are respected by Sri Lanka. We hope that there will be early progress on meaningful devolution building upon the 13th Amendment and leading to national reconciliation," Khurshid said.
Peiris called for elevating bilateral ties "to a higher frame" and termed the Joint Commission meeting as a "significant milestone in their continuing evolving relationship".
Both sides have also agreed to double bilateral trade to $10 billion in the next three years. India's commerce secretary and Sri Lanka's finance and economic development secretary are to meet soon to evolve a framework for special economic partnership between the two.