Fulfill Tamil expectations, India tells SL
By Sumudu Chamara
Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar yesterday (6) urged the Sri Lankan Government to satisfy the expectations of the Tamil people and fulfill the Government’s commitments on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
“It is in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, and dignity within a united Sri Lanka are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The progress and prosperity of Sri Lanka will surely be advanced as a consequence.”
Addressing a joint press briefing in Colombo with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena, he added that India is committed to ensuring unity, stability, and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and that India supports the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka and an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony.
He said that India and Sri Lanka are now looking at post-Covid-19 co-operation most immediately with regard to Sri Lanka’s interest in obtaining a vaccine from India.
“I think Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to collaborate even more closely. Reflecting our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India has supported Sri Lanka’s efforts to tackle Covid-19 through timely medical assistance. I should also place on record my appreciation to the Sri Lankan Government for its assistance and facilitation in evacuation of Indian nationals who were stuck in Sri Lanka. We are now looking at post-Covid-19 co-operation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India.”
Dr. Jaishankar further emphasised that he carries the message of an India that will always be a dependable partner and a reliable friend, open to strengthening its relationship with Sri Lanka on the basis of mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual sensitivity.
During the press briefing, they further underscored the importance of strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries as far as post-Covid-19 recovery is concerned. Both expressed willingness to consider taking joint efforts that will be beneficial to both countries. Speaking of the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Jaishankar observed that it is not just a public health issue, but equally an economic crisis.
He expressed confidence that India’s achievements, as far as managing the Covid-19 pandemic is concerned, will have a positive impact on Sri Lanka. He also stated that the Indian business community is strongly interested in investing in Sri Lanka and that discussions have already been held on several important opportunities, including in special zones for pharmaceutical manufacturing and also in tourism.
Speaking of the discussions held with Dr. Jaishankar, Gunawardena revealed that they focused on multiple areas of mutual co-operation in identified sectors of economics, finance, trade, commerce, defence, security, fisheries, cultural affairs, and particularly on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as well as the post-Covid-19 era. Dr. Jaishankar expressed willingness to extend India’s assistance to enhance Sri Lanka’s capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges.
“We agreed to continue our current momentum of co-ordinated and close dialogue in these areas in order to curb illegal activities, and our continued co-operation in the the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation (BIMSTEC), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), and the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC),” he noted.
Minister Gunawardena added that India’s offer of $ 15 million to restore Buddhist heritage, announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his virtual summit with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa last September, would be utilised through mutual consultations.
This was the first official visit of a high-level foreign dignitary in Sri Lanka in 2021 as well as the first official visit outside India in the new year for Dr. Jaishankar. He will depart the island today (7).
Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar during his recent visit to Sri Lanka