ECONOMYNEXT – India’s Covid numbers have come down sharply and with vaccination in sight, India’s economic recovery will be “full-blown” by the next quarter with beneficial effects on Sri Lanka, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.
Addressing a joint press conference with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in Colombo this afternoon Jaishankar said Covid “is not just a public health issue but equally, a crisis of the economy. The Indian economy has also shown strong signs of recovery in the last few months.”
The Minister said Covid has given the two countries an opportunity to collaborate even more closely. “Reflecting our Neighbourhood First policy, India has supported Sri Lanka’s efforts to tackle Covid through timely medical assistance. I should also place on record my appreciation to the Sri Lankan Government for its assistance and facilitation in the evacuation of Indian nationals who were stuck here. We are now looking at post-Covid cooperation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India.”
Jaishankar also said that he will meet with other important political and community leaders. “There is also an interaction with the business community. To all of them, I carry the message of an India that will always be a dependable partner and reliable friend, open to strengthening its relationship with Sri Lanka on the basis of mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual sensitivity.”
He said there are “many proposals under discussion, including in infrastructure, energy, connectivity, etc. Their early implementation is obviously in mutual interest and would definitely accelerate Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. Let me stress that Indian business is strongly interested in investing in Sri Lanka. We have discussed some important opportunities including in special zones for pharmaceutical manufacturing as also in tourism. I will ensure an early follow-up.”
India also reiterated its support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is longstanding, as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony. “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.”
“With regard to matters covering fisheries, you would be aware that the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on this issue has met recently where all outstanding issues were discussed in an open and candid manner. We naturally look forward to an early return of our fishermen.
Minister Gunawardena in his reply said that Sri Lanka is grateful for the support given to Sri Lanka by India during the Covid pandemic.
“The Indian Government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy made a very positive impact on our health sector and the economy during the critical period unprecedented crisis and also extended assistance to repatriate Sri Lankans, pilgrims, students and medically concerned,” Gunawardena said.
Sri Lanka has sought “India’s partnership for our economic revival, stability through enhanced investments in different sectors of the economy. Of course, as close neighbours and being littoral states of the Indian Ocean, we discussed defence and security-related matters, as well as the issues related to maritime and fisheries sectors,” he added.
(Colombo, January 6, 2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana