Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held a Virtual Summit, during which they discussed the bilateral relations and regional & international issues of mutual concern. The two neighbouring countries share friendly and cordial ties since millennia.
Both the leaders recalled the successful State Visits by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in November 2019 and February 2020, respectively. These visits gave clear political direction and vision for the future of the relationship.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa commended the strong leadership shown by Prime Minister Modi in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic based on the vision of mutual support and assistance to the countries of the region. Both leaders agreed that the current situation presented a fresh opportunity to give added impetus to bilateral relations. The Indian Prime Minister reaffirmed New Delhi’s continued commitment for all possible support to Sri Lanka for minimising the health and economic impact of the pandemic.
For imparting further impetus to the bilateral relationship, the two leaders agreed to, enhance cooperation to combat terrorism and drug trafficking including intelligence, and information sharing, de-radicalization and capacity building. They also agreed to continue the fruitful and efficient development partnership in accordance with the priority areas identified by Sri Lanka and to further broad base the island wide engagement under the Memorandum of Understanding for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) for the period 2020-2025.
Both sides will work together to expeditiously complete construction of 10,000 housing units in the plantation areas, which was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Sri Lanka in May 2017. The two sides also agreed to facilitate an enabling environment for trade and investment between the two countries and to deepen integration of supply chains in the backdrop of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Delhi and Colombo agreed to work towards early realization of infrastructure and connectivity projects including in the sectors of Ports and Energy through close consultations as per the Bilateral Agreements and MoUs, and strong commitment towards a mutually beneficial development cooperation partnership between the two countries. Both sides also agreed to deepen cooperation in renewable energy with particular emphasis on solar projects under the US$ 100 million Line of Credit from India. Prime Minister Modi and Mr. Rajapaksa emphasised on strengthening people-to-people ties in the field of civilizational linkages and common heritage such as Buddhism, Ayurveda and Yoga. India will facilitate visit of a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka in the inaugural international flight to the sacred city of Kushinagar, which has recently been upgraded as an International Airport recognizing its significance in Buddhism. Both Prime Ministers agreed to facilitate tourism by enhancing connectivity and by early establishment of an “air bubble” between the two countries to resume travel, bearing in mind threat posed by Covid-19.
Both sides would continue engagement to address the issues related to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels according to the existing frameworks and shared goals including the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. Rajapaksa welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s announcement of India’s grant assistance of US$ 15 million for promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries. The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism including through construction/renovation of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of The Buddha’s relics, strengthening engagement of Buddhist scholars and clergy etc.
The Indian Prime Minister called on Sri Lanka to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka, including by carrying forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Rajapaksa expressed the confidence that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka and implementation of the Constitutional provisions.
Both leaders acknowledged the increasing convergence on regional and international issues of mutual engagement, including within the frameworks of SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA and the United Nations system. They agreed to work together in various multilateral fora.
Script: Kaushik Roy, AIR: News Analyst