India to build 50k homes for displaced SL Tamils

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NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday announced major sops for Sri Lanka, including a programme to construct 50,000 houses for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the northern and eastern provinces. In his meeting with PM Manmohan Singh, President Mahinda Rajapaksa also expressed gratitude for the $800 million offered by India for railway projects in Sri Lanka.

Both leaders condemned terrorism and signed two agreements "to strengthen the security and legal framework of their bilateral relationship". These include Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters and Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners.

Singh and Rajapaksa also agreed on establishing Indian consulates in Jaffna and Hambantota to reinforce consular cooperation. Hambantota is crucial for India because of the increasing Chinese influence in the region. China is helping Sri Lanka build a major port in Hambantota.

According to foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, Singh emphasised the need for urgent steps to resettle the remaining IDPs and urged Sri Lanka to undertake speedy rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the northern and eastern region. Rajapaksa, on his part, reiterated his determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all communities.

Sri Lanka reiterated its position that the UN Security Council reform process should facilitate India's legitimate claim for a permanent seat in UNSC and reaffirmed its support for India's candidature. Sri Lanka's support to India's candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2011-12 was also reiterated.

Rajapaksa also proposed discussions for establishing a joint information mechanism on the possibility of oil and gas fields straddling the India-Sri Lanka Maritime Boundary. Singh assured Rajapaksa that this proposal would receive India's attention and the matter could be discussed further between the two sides.

India also agreed to assist in the rehabilitation of Palaly airport and Kankesanthurai harbour and decided to restore ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and between Talaimannar and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.

The two leaders were briefed on the progress in discussions between the National Thermal Power Corporation of India and the Ceylon Electricity Board of Sri Lanka on the establishment of a joint venture for building a 500 mw coal-fired power plant at Sampur (Trincomalee), incorporating environmentally friendly technologies, with Sri Lanka providing the requisite infrastructure support.

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