Colombo, October 3 (newsin.asia): The Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla began his visit to Sri Lanka by seeking blessings at Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy on Sunday. He was received warmly by the Diyawadana Nilame of the temple.
In an email interview to Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, the Indian Foreign Secretary said: “India is blessed to be the land from where the invaluable gift of the Buddha’s teachings spread to the rest of the world. Today, Buddhist heritage forms an important civilisational bond between India and many countries.
Sri Lanka has a very important and special place among them, being one of the first countries to have received the gift of Buddhism from India two millennia ago. Our shared living heritage of Buddhism continues to inspire millions of people and has been kept alive through regular exchanges, exposition of Buddha’s relics, Buddhist pilgrimages, conservation of Buddhist sites etc. It is, therefore, our right, responsibility and duty, to defend our shared Buddhist heritage not only in our own countries but all over the world.”
Asked about the status of the Buddhism grant announced by the Government of India last year, Shringla said: “The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, announced a special grant of USD 15 million for promotion of Buddhist ties between India and Sri Lanka. The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism, through infrastructure development projects; capacity development; cultural activities; archaeological cooperation; reciprocal exposition of Lord Buddha’s relics; promotion of Buddhist related pilgrimage to India etc. Currently, both Governments are holding discussions on the modalities for utilization of the grant. We hope to sign the MOU shortly.”
In its statement on the visit, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that as Sri Lanka occupies a central place in India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the Foreign Secretary’s visit will provide an opportunity to review bilateral ties, the progress of ongoing bilateral projects and ongoing cooperation to tackle Covid related disruptions.
Shringla will also meet a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation led by its leader R. Sampanthan in Colombo and at the Indian-funded Cultural Centre in Jaffna, in addition to scheduled meetings with the Northern Governor and leaders of political parties.
During his visit to Kandy and the upcountry, he will inaugurate the a 1 project to build 1250 houses for plantation families under India’s flagship Indian Housing Project in Sri Lanka to construct 50,000 houses with a total allocation of US$ 270 million in grants.
Under this project, 4000 houses are being constructed in the plantation regions of Central, Uva, Sabragamuwa and Southern Provinces of Sri Lanka.