India’s 73 rd. Independence Day was celebrated on Thursday in the Sri Lankan capital with a colourful function held at the India House, the official residence of the Indian High Commissioner.
High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu addressed the gathering of Indian expatriates and Sri Lankan friends of India about India’s achievements in various fields, India-Sri Lanka relations and the relationship’s right trajectory.
The audience was then treated to colourful dance performances in the South Indian and Rajasthan folk style by local and visiting performers.
Interview to Lankan Media
In an interview published in all newspapers in Sri Lanka on the occasion of India’s 73 rd., Independence Day on Thursday, the High Commissioner said: “ India and Sri Lanka are both ancient civilizations but also nations of young people. The aim for both of our countries should be to fulfil the development aspirations of the youth – to provide them with a prosperous, secure future. Towards this, our biggest investment has to be in our youth. We have to focus on education and skill development and urge them to think out of the box.”
“I feel there is much that Indian and Sri Lankan youth can learn from each other,” envoy Sandhu said and added that the recent launch of the indigenous Chandrayaan-2 moon mission gives opportunities to the youth of the two countries to share and to learn.
“We need to promote research collaboration in the field of Science and Technology and Space,” the envoy said.
He pointed out that India provides 750 scholarships and over 400 technical training slots to Sri Lankan students to study in India. The prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology hold their entrance tests in Sri Lanka and Lankan students can apply for admission to medical colleges in India.
“I believe we can do more,” Sandhu said and pointed out that institutional collaborations are one way. The Lankan University of Keleniya has entered into a collaboration with Ramjas College of Delhi University and Royal College in Colombo and Lawrence School in Sanawar in India have an exchange program, he pointed out. “These are a few examples and we can build on them,” the envoy said.
There is a lot the two countries can share in the field of agriculture, horticulture and dairy and animal husbandry, the High Commissioner said and added that India’s projects in Sri Lanka are developed “keeping in mind the priorities of the people of Sri Lanka.”
The Indian housing project is the largest of these projects and that is a grant project. India is committed to build over 63,000 houses out which 47,000 have been handed over to the beneficiaries.
“This year, the Indian housing project expanded to Galle, Matara, Ratnapur and Kegalle districts.We are also setting up one model village in each district of Sri Lanka. We feel that we are able to contribute to the lives of people living in villages,” the envoy said.
“Last year, we built an auditorium for the students of Ruhuna University, the largest university auditorium in Sri Lanka. Soon we will be inaugurating a 5000 mt Temperature Controlled Cold Storage Facility in Dambulla which will help farmers reduce crop losses. A national trilingual school for children in Polonnaruwa is also under construction. We are currently executing 20 such projects from North to South, East to West,” he pointed out.
“Whether it is flood, drought or fuel crisis, India has been the first to respond to Sri Lanka’s request. India is the largest source market for the Sri Lankan tourism industry. Indian tourists come without preconditions and embrace Sri Lankan culture. More and more Indian couples are choosing Sri Lanka for destination weddings. While Indian companies continue to make investments in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan companies are achieving new successes in the Indian market as well.These are symbols of the growing confidence and closeness of our relations,” the High Commissioner said.
He recalled that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first world leader to visit Sri Lanka a few weeks after the Easter Sunday blasts and had made Sri Lanka part of his first overseas tour during his second term, reiterating the special nature of Indo-Sri Lankan ties.
“We have offered all support to the government of Sri Lanka if they so require,” High Commissioner Sandhu said.
In conclusion he said: “India-Sri Lanka relations are molded, guided and strengthened by our collective ambitions and aspirations. What we all can achieve together is constrained only by our collective imagination.”
On Thrusday, 73 rd. India’s Independence Day observed at the India House in the midst of a large gathering of Indian expatriates and Sri Lankan friends of India. A colourful program dances in the South India and Rajasthani styles enthralled the audience.