Beijing: Rolling out the red carpet for Sri Lankan President Mahenda Rajapaksa, China has "upgraded" its ties with Colombo to a strategic cooperative partnership by consolidating cooperation in security and defence sectors.

Rajapaksa, who is increasingly turning to China to ward off pressure being mounted by the international community to probe human rights violations in the last stages of the civil war against LTTE in 2009 as well as devolve powers to the Tamil minority, held his first meeting with new Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

This is Rajapaksa's sixth visit to Beijing in recent years aimed at deepening relations with China, sparking concerns in India over the strategic tie-up. "China and Sri Lanka agreed to upgrade their relations to a strategic cooperative partnership, as the presidents held talks in Beijing," media reported.

After the talks on Wednesday night, Xi and Rajapaksa signed a joint communiqué and attended the signing ceremony of a number of cooperative documents. Under the agreement, the two countries will consolidate cooperation in law enforcement, security and defence, it said without elaborating.

"They vowed to jointly crack down on the 'three forces' of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as transnational crimes and drug trafficking," the communiqué said. Recently, the China Development Bank had agreed to Colombo's request for USD 580 million loan for infrastructure development, taking its total commitments in the island nation to USD 1.4 billion.

The two countries agreed to support each other's efforts in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, media reported. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met Rajapaksa said the two sides need to strengthen cooperation in trade and investment, outline a bilateral economic cooperation plan, carry out discussions on a free trade area and activate a balanced trade in development.

Li also suggested the two sides strengthen infrastructure cooperation, implementing major projects on ports, railways and highways, expand pragmatic cooperation and research on aerospace and marine science, and broaden cooperation in culture, education and tourism. The two sides agreed to expand bilateral trade and investment, and accelerate trade facilitation as well as investment and financing cooperation and will cooperate more in the areas of agriculture and the application of space technology.

The two countries will now also beef up communication and coordination in international and regional affairs and will cooperate to cope with global challenges, such as climate change and non-traditional security threats, the communiqué said.


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