The visiting Indian Foreign Secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, has emphasized the “people-centric” character of India’s projects in Sri Lanka and lauded the commitment of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to strengthening India-Sri Lanka relations.

Speaking at the inauguration of Indian development projects in the island nation here on Monday, Shringla said: “ A short while back, I had a very productive meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, an ardent friend of India and a steady source of support for the deepening of the India-Sri Lanka engagement. I look forward to calling-on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa whose steadfast commitment to the India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship is well known.”

“This is my first visit to Sri Lanka in my current capacity but I have had the pleasure of visiting Sri Lanka on a number of occasions in the past. During the course of all these years, I have been witness to the comprehensive transformation of our ties.”

“Yesterday (Sunday), I had the pleasure of visiting Kandy for a darshan of the blessed Dalada Maligawa temple. I also visited Trincomalee and Jaffna where I saw the Jaffna Cultural Centre, an iconic project built with Indian grant assistance. These places vividly recount the shared cultural heritage of the two countries and our strong development partnership. We have seen the fruition of a number of people-centric projects in recent years.”

“I am happy to see the progress in our bilateral engagement across different spheres. The high-level visits, in particular, the state visits of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in November 2019 and February 2020, respectively, have given fresh impetus to the bilateral relations. The Virtual Bilateral Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in September 2020 was an important milestone as it set the template for the future evolution of our cooperation in fields such as defense and security, health, tourism, trade and commerce and people to people ties.”

“In the past one year, India has buttressed its credentials of being a net security provider and first responder in HADR situations in the wider Indian Ocean region. India was happy to respond to Sri Lanka’s requests in recent cases of fire and marine pollution in its waters. The Indian Navy also deployed its assets for rapid delivery of medical grade oxygen to Sri Lanka in August to deal with its COVID situation. During the COVID pandemic period, India kept its air space open for travel for specific and urgent medical needs of Sri Lanka.”

People-Centric Projects

“With the easing of the situation in Sri Lanka, it may be opportune for us to work on connectivity initiatives like the Jaffna to Chennai flight, ferry services between Karaikal and Kankesanthurai and Dhanushkodi and Talaimanar and the Buddhist corridor with the new international airport at Kushinagar.”

“It may be recalled that in the immediate aftermath of 2009, India had commenced its housing Project in Sri Lanka. Over time, this project has become an integral part of our development cooperation partnership.

Today, we are dedicating 1235 houses in the third phase of the Indian Housing Project which is spread across the hill country.”

“The other projects, namely, the Model Housing Village at Vavuniya District, school building at Vadamaraddchi in Jaffna and the Saraswathy Central College building in Pusselalwa, also reflect the people centric benefits of our development cooperation. I would also like to highlight that these projects employ local companies and invariably use Sri Lankan material and labor in their execution.”

“I hope in the coming months, the two sides will be able to complete some of the remaining projects like the Dambulla Cold Storage plant, trilingual school at Polonnaruwa and the School of Kandyan Dancing at Pallekale whose progress had been impeded by the restrictions imposed by COVID 19 and the attendant administrative challenges.”

“The Government of India will also support the development of facilities for tourists and pilgrims at sites associated with the Ramayana circuit in Sri Lanka.”

“Let me state on this occasion that on our part, we will leave no stone unturned in mitigating the adverse impact of the COVID 19 restrictions on our socio-economic engagement and will stand together with Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts for post-COVID recovery.”

India and Sri Lanka have both seen major disruptions to their economies by the devastating COVID pandemic. As we seek rapid socio-economic recovery for our respective countries, it is important to work together to strengthen our economic partnership and deepen our time-tested bilateral ties founded on the principles of mutual benefit, mutual understanding and a common purpose defined by good neighborly relations.”

“I am confident that my in-depth discussions during this visit, including with Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and my counterpart Foreign Secretary Adm. Colombage, will contribute towards jointly confronting the common economic and security challenges and chart a new collaborative way forward.”



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