India will expand the defence partnership with Sri Lanka while pledging a grant assistance of US $ 15 million to promote Buddhist ties with Sri Lanka, in the first virtual bilateral summit between Prime Minsiter Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday.
Among the topics discussed were maritime security and countering the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Indian media, the development of the strategic Colombo East container terminal and the peace and reconciliation process also figured in the discussion. According to a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, the virtual bilateral summit was Prime Minister Modi’s first such engagement with a neighbouring country.
It was also Premier Rajapaksa’s first diplomatic engagement with a leader of a foreign country after he was sworn in as the Prime Minister on August 9, 2020.
“An opportunity has come to begin a new chapter in India-Sri Lanka ties after your party’s electoral victory. People from both countries are looking at us with new hope and expectations,” PM Modi said.
He thanked Prime Minister Rajapaksa for accepting his invitation for the virtual Bilateral Summit and congratulated him for being elected as Prime Minister and the victory of his party at the parliamentary elections.
The Prime Minister had also thanked India for the successful operation to douse the fire on the MT New Diamond saying it provided an opportunity for greater cooperation between the two countries. The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkage between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism, inter-alia, through constructions/renovations of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of the Buddha’s relics, strengthening Buddhist scholarship and supporting the clergy, the economic times reported quoting officials.
PM Rajapaksa has extended an invitation to Modi to inaugurate the Jaffna Cultural Centre, an iconic project built with Indian assistance.
Source: Sunday Observer