Jaishankar meets Mahinda before concluding visit

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar had talks with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa before concluding his visit to Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa tweeted saying he had a successful discussion with Jaishankar and that they discussed a range of issues of mutual interest.

“Also thanked the Indian govt. for it’s steadfast commitment in assisting Sri Lanka during its troubled times & the strong ties shared between Sri Lanka and India,” Rajapaksa tweeted.

During the visit to Sri Lanka, Minister Jaishankar held bilateral discussions with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry on 19 January 2023 and was hosted to dinner by the Foreign Minister.

On behalf of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Government and the people of Sri Lanka, Minister Sabry conveyed gratitude to his Indian counterpart for the significant assistance extended by India to Sri Lanka in the past year, of USD 4 billion in credit lines as well as other in-kind assistance, when the country was going through its most serious economic crisis.

Minister Sabry also appreciated India’s announcement, as the first country to officially back Sri Lanka’s IMF-led debt restructuring programme by conveying financing assurances to the International Monetary Fund.

The Indian Minister reiterated that the primary purpose of his visit to Colombo was to express India’s solidarity with Sri Lanka in difficult times in line with the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy of Prime Minister Modi. It was India’s intention to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move towards recovery and growth.

Bilateral discussions between the two Foreign Ministers and the respective delegations included Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardane and Indian High Commissioner Gopal Bagley and focused on several areas of possible further collaboration for mutual benefit. It was agreed that greater connectivity including through tourism would encourage enhanced people to people contact and economic activity.

Sustainable energy security was identified by both sides as one of the most urgent upcoming challenges, and agreement was arrived at in principle for the need for a framework for cooperation for renewable energy.

Foreign Minister Sabry noted that India was one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Sri Lanka recognizes that India’s growth would provide opportunities for Sri Lanka as India is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner, the largest source of inward tourism and one of the largest investors.

On the occasion of the visit, a number of important initiatives were concluded in the presence of President Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat.

This included the signing of an MOU on Indian Grant Assistance for implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) which focused on socio-economic development, infrastructure in education, health and community development sectors. Minister Jaishankar also participated in three virtual inauguration ceremonies to handover the Kandyan Dancing Academy under the Sri Dalada Maligawa Heritage Project, to handover 24 houses each in Anuradhapura and Badulla Districts under the Model Housing Village Project and to handover 300 houses under Phase-3 of the Indian Housing Project: 100 houses each in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Galle Districts.

Minister Jaishankar also handed over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to President Ranil Wickremesinghe to visit India at an early date to discuss how India could further facilitate Sri Lanka’s strong recovery.

External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar was accompanied by Joint Secretary (IOR) Puneet Agrawal, Director Sandeep Kumar Bayyappu and Deputy Secretary (Sri Lanka) Nidhi Choudhary and Deputy Secretary Raghoo Puri from the Ministry of External Affairs, India.