Colombo, April 4 (newsin.asia): The Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, has assured Sri Lankans that India does not covet the island nation’s “markets, assets or land.”
In his Sujatha Jayawardena Memorial Oration held under the auspices of the Alumni Association of the University of Colombo here on Tuesday, the High Commissioner said that self-interest is not the basis of India’s relations with Sri Lanka. The basis is mutual progress, he stressed.
Speaking on ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas: Together We Progress’- India-Sri Lanka Relations in the light of India’s Neighborhood First Policy,’ the envoy said that the Hindi term: “Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas” (Together we progress) sums up in one line the very essence of India’s “Neighborhood First” policy.
“We want to progress together with Sri Lanka, as self-interest alone is neither in our culture nor in our behavior. We are neighbors, not just because we share physical borders but because we are joined by blood,” Sandhu said.
“India has never believed in setting conditionalities for friendship. India’s heart is broad and big. India does not see friendships through a transactional lens. India has always believed in sharing what it has. Even while struggling to meet its own developmental priorities, India has shared the fruits of our expertise, knowledge and skill set with our friends and partners,” the envoy said.
Not to Raid Or Invade
“India’s aid is not to raid or invade. Indian assistance is based on Sri Lanka’s own requirements. India’s partnership blends with Sri Lanka’s priorities,” Sandhu asserted.
He noted that Buddhism first came to Sri Lanka from India before it spread anywhere in the world and this signified Sri Lanka’s speciality for India.
“This (sending Buddhism to Sri Lanka first) was not just because of proximity. It was because of the interconnectedness India & Sri Lanka felt for each other, even in those times,” he said.
“Emperor Ashoka sent his own worthy children, Mahinda and Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism while sending emissaries to other parts of the globe. Sri Lanka is special for India not only now, but had been so even at the time of Emperor Ashoka. And India is proud of its Buddhist identity,” the envoy said.
Advantage of Proximity
High Commissioner Sandhu listed the various advantages which Sri Lanka has, given its proximity to India, to meet its developmental aspirations.
But he made it clear that that India does not covet Sri Lanka’s markets, assets or land. He reiterated that India wants to walk with Sri Lanka “at a pace Sri Lanka is comfortable with.”
India seeks a secure and prosperous future for Indian Ocean region that lives up to the acronym SAGAR- Security and Growth for All in the Region, Sandhu added.
Role of People
“Success of one must propel the growth of many”, the envoy stated, and added that the real ownership of India-Sri Lanka relations rests with the people of the two countries and they have to decide which way to go.
“People have to decide whether to look at the past, survive in the present, or work towards a common future,” Sandhu said as he assured that “India will be there for Sri Lanka whenever Sri Lanka needs India.”
(The featured image at the top shows the President of the Alumni association Rajeev Amarasuriya presenting Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu with the SJ Oration Memorial Plaque)