New Delhi, July 21: During his inaugural visit to India after assuming office, President Ranil Wickremesinghe commended the neighbouring nation’s unwavering support and solidarity during Sri Lanka’s recent economic crisis.
Addressing a joint press briefing, he expressed his sincere gratitude to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government and people of India for their continued support during Sri Lanka’s most difficult times in recent history.
Meanwhile, President Wickremesinghe also praised the impressive economic, infrastructure, and technological advancements made under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership.
He emphasised that India’s growth would have positive impacts on both, the neighbouring countries and the Indian Ocean region.
Reaffirming his dedication to achieving economic revival, sustainable development and justice for all in Sri Lanka, President Wickremesinghe engaged in discussions about a comprehensive plan for reconciliation and power-sharing, and thereby extended an invitation to all party leaders to reach a consensus.
In response, Prime Minister Modi expressed his support and goodwill towards these initiatives.
President Wickremesinghe also asserted that Sri Lanka is steadfastly pursuing economic reforms, which are already showing positive results in stabilizing the country.
He further noted that the measures taken have led to a resurgence of confidence both within the nation and from external observers in the progress of Sri Lanka
Highlighting the mutual agreement between India and Sri Lanka on a Joint Vision for their economic partnership, focusing on improved connectivity, the Head of State acknowledged the deep historical and cultural connections between the two nations, emphasizing that this presents an ideal opportunity for further enhancing connectivity in the future.
The President also noted that while ferry services between Talaimannar-Rameswaram and Nagapattinam-Kankesanthurai will add more impetus to sea travel between India and Sri Lanka, other forms of connectivity between the two countries are being examined, as it could become a further catalyst to boost economic growth.
Following is the statement delivered by President Wickremesinghe
“I am honoured to be in New Delhi at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is my first visit to India since assuming office as President last year and it is a visit to which myself and my government attach the highest importance.
I thank the PM Modi and the Government of India for the hospitality extended to me and to my delegation.
This morning PM Modi and I had the occasion to review at length recent developments in our countries as well as in our bilateral relations. I have congratulated PM Modi on the great strides India continues to make under his leadership in economic, infrastructure and technological progress in ensuring growth and prosperity for the people of India.
We believe that India’s growth will be beneficial to the neighbourhood and Indian Ocean region.
I have also apprised with Prime Minister Modi of the extraordinary challenges that Sri Lanka had experienced in economic, social and political terms in the past year, and of the reform measures I have spearheaded on a number of fronts, in overcoming these challenges.
I have conveyed to PM Modi and to the government and people of India our profound appreciation for the solidarity and support rendered to Sri Lanka in what was undoubtedly the most challenging period in our recent history.
In reviewing recent developments in Sri Lanka, I shared with Prime Minister Modi my commitment to bring about economic recovery leading to sustainable and stable growth with justice and equity which will benefit all segments of Sri Lankan society in all parts of the country.
In moving forward, I have explained that I have set Sri Lanka firmly on a path of economic reform and that Sri Lanka is already witnessing the stabilizing outcomes of these measures and the revival of confidence internally and externally in the progress of the country.
I also shared with him the comprehensive proposal I presented this week for furthering reconciliation, power sharing through devolution and the multiple elements of the Northern development plan.
I have invited all party leaders in Parliament to work towards consensus and national unity on these measures. Thereafter the Government will place the relevant legislation before Parliament.
Prime Minister Modi has expressed his solidarity and goodwill in these endeavours.
We now need to put our economy on a growth path bringing greater revenue for the country, which requires enhanced investment in all parts of the country.
As a supportive and solid foundation for the realization of these objectives, we have agreed on a Joint Vision of the future India -Sri Lanka economic partnership through enhanced connectivity.
Today, in this 75th year of our bilateral diplomatic relations, our Vision will propel us towards a more secure future through mutually beneficial interactions, to bring tangible benefits and greater opportunities for our future generations in the coming decades.
The foundations of our joint vision of greater future connectivity have already been laid through millennia-old civilizational, cultural, human and commercial interactions between our two countries.
The thread of connectivity is woven through our history.
In our view, the present time is a most opportune moment to embark on such a vision for the future.
We recognized that modern-day connectivity plays a crucial role in realizing our vision of economic partnership.
The recent recommencement of Chennai and Jaffna air services is an important step towards air connectivity. We believe that expansion of aviation connectivity to other destinations and further development of Palaly airport will complement this initiative.
Ferry services between Talaimannar-Rameswaram and Nagapattinam-Kankesanthurai will add more impetus to sea travel between the two countries. Examining other forms of connectivity between Sri Lanka and India could become a further catalyst to boost economic growth.
We agreed that the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement between Sri Lanka and India is critical to enhance bilateral trade and investment in new and priority areas. Sri Lanka is pleased to welcome Indian assistance in digital tech driven service delivery and citizen centric services.
We agreed that enhanced connectivity will also a play a crucial role in strengthening our cooperation in tourism, people-to-people exchanges and cultural relations.
The tourism industry in Sri Lanka is poised to reap the benefits of the post-pandemic world and India is currently the top market for inbound tourism for Sri Lanka. Enabling UPI based digital payments in Sri Lanka would immensely facilitate further growth in this and other sectors.
In keeping with Sri Lanka’s national priorities and global commitments towards a greener economy, and also to ensure energy security, Sri Lanka sees valuable opportunities in partnering with India in green and renewable energy development. In this context, I am pleased to note the conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in the field of Renewable Energy.
Establishing the high-capacity power grid interconnection between Sri Lanka and India would enable two-way electricity trade between the two countries.
The development of Trincomalee as an energy hub with the support of India is a crucial step towards Sri Lanka’s goal to elevate Trincomalee as a hub for industry and other economic activities.
Prime Minister Modi and I believe that the construction of a multi-product petroleum pipeline from Southern part of India to Sri Lanka will ensure an affordable and reliable supply of energy resources to Sri Lanka.
We also discussed how to improve our cooperation in the dairy and animal husbandry sectors to realize our common interest in achieving greater socio-economic development, and enhance the nutrition status of our people.
Cooperation in the education sector is one of the key elements in our bilateral relationship. We believe that establishing new higher education institutes with the assistance from India is important.
This will contribute towards upgrading the knowledge and skills of our youth and include them in the nation’s development drive.
I believe that my visit to India has provided an opportunity to review our bilateral relationship, leverage the strength of geographical and civilizational links, and reinforce trust and confidence for our future prosperity in the modern world.
I am confident that the discussions we had today will lay the foundation for the next 25 years of Indo-Lanka relations and contribute to my vision for sustainable growth national unity and reconciliation for all segments of the people of Sri Lanka and for a prosperous and secure future for the people of India and Sri Lanka.”