Media Center

Opening remarks in the Special Media Briefing on the India-Sri Lanka Virtual Bilateral Summit

September 26, 2020

1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held the first ever India Sri Lanka Virtual Bilateral Summit on 26 September 2020. This is also India’s first such summit with a neighbor.

2.​During the Summit that lasted about one hour, the two leaders reviewed the entire range of bilateral matters and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common concern.

3.​The members of the Indian delegation included External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Shri Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla and other officials of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs, including the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shri Gopal Baglay.

4.​Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was assisted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon’ble Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Fisheries Hon’ble Douglas Devananda as well as other Ministers and senior officials.

5.​In the current COVID imposed restrictions the successful conduct of the Virtual Summit reflects the high degree of commitment at the leaders’ level on taking forward the bilateral relationship.

6.​In particular, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa recalled that this was his first bilateral engagement with a foreign leader after being re-elected following the successful victory of his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party (SLPP) at the Parliamentary elections held in August this year.

7.​He expressed his firm resolve to use the opportunity provided by the strong 2/3rd majority achieved by his SLPP led alliance in the last month’s Parliamentary elections to take India-Sri Lanka engagement to new heights.

8.​While concurring with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Shri Modi also added that the current moment provided a unique opportunity for both countries to work more closely with each other in dealing with the economic impact of COVID-19 and deepening engagement on regional and international issues.

9.​The discussions were held in a friendly, frank and cordial manner. The outcomes of the Summit are substantial, forward looking and also help to set an ambitious agenda for bilateral ties.

10.​I would like to flag some important points of the discussion.

11.​Testifying to the long-standing civilizational links and cultural heritage, Prime Minister Modi announced a grant assistance of US$15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries. The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism, inter-alia, through constructions/renovations of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of Lord Buddha’s relics, strengthening of Buddhist scholarship, and supporting the clergy.

12.​It was agreed that the Indian side would facilitate the visit of a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka in the first inaugural flight to Sacred City of Kushinagar. As you know, Kushinagar Airport was designated as an international airport recently recognizing its importance as a Buddhist site. Both sides also agreed to explore opportunities in the areas of Ayurveda and Yoga.

13.​Both leaders were unanimous that the ancient cultural links between India and Sri Lanka are special and must be nurtured further. PM Rajapaksa made a special mention of the Jaffna Cultural Centre which is an iconic project built with Indian assistance. The Centre is almost ready and PM Rajapaksa extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to inaugurate the project. Both sides will remain in touch at official level for details.

14.​The two leaders shared a positive assessment of the ongoing development cooperation partnership. Towards this end, both sides have reached an understanding to extend the MoU on High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) for a 5-year period beginning 2020. Both leaders agreed to continue the successful Indian housing project and gave instructions to the relevant officials to fast-track the construction of 10000 houses in the plantation sector.

15.​Both leaders discussed the economic dimension of the challenges posed by COVID-19. They acknowledged the need for close coordination on issues such as trade and investment including the facilitation of an enabling environment for economic enterprises on both sides and deepening the integration of supply chains for mutual benefit. Prime Minister Modi expressed his hope that the temporary restrictions imposed by the Sri Lankan side on the imports of some products will be relaxed soon since this will also benefit the Sri Lankan economy and common people.

16.​The ongoing infrastructure and connectivity projects were discussed and Prime Minister Modi expressed his confidence that the Government in Sri Lanka will take early and decisive steps for their early implementation in accordance with existing understandings and in mutual interest of both sides.

17.​Both sides have been working to strengthen bilateral financial cooperation. India has already provided a US$400 million currency swap facility to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in order to assist with economic recovery and to tackle the Covid-19 related disruptions. An additional request for a bilateral currency swap arrangement worth around US$1 billion by the Sri Lankan side remains under discussion. Technical discussions on Sri Lanka’s request for debt deferment are going on.

18.​The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction with the robustness of the security and defence cooperation between the two sides. They agreed to continue and further strengthen the mutual cooperation on personnel exchange and training, maritime security cooperation and India’s support to Sri Lanka in the spheres of defence and security.

19.​The recent coordination exhibited by the Armed Forces of both sides in controlling the engine fire of the MT New Diamond and thereafter stabilizing the ship which was carrying a crude oil cargo of 270,000 MT and preventing spill of cargo oil was specifically acknowledged as an example of practical collaboration. Prime Minister Rajapaksa made a special mention of the excellent support rendered by the Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy in this operation, which prevented what could have been a major environmental disaster.

20.​Both leaders acknowledged the progress made in information sharing and cooperation in both counter-terrorism efforts and in dealing with regional drug trafficking.

21.​Both leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of agriculture, animal husbandry, science & technology, health care and AYUSH as well as skill development by increased training of professionals thereby realizing the full potential of the demographic dividend in both the countries. PM Rajapaksa noted that Sports can act as a bridge to further enhance people to people ties and specifically mentioned Cricket in this regard.

22.​Both leaders also exchanged views on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Modi called on the new Government in Sri Lanka to work towards realizing the expectations of Tamils for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka by achieving reconciliation nurtured by implementation of the Constitutional provisions. He emphasized that implementation of the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution is essential for carrying forward the process of peace and reconciliation.

23.​The two leaders also exchanged views on the fishermen related issues. They agreed to continue and strengthen the ongoing constructive and humanitarian approach to address this issue through existing bilateral mechanisms and instructed relevant officials on both sides to this effect.

Thank you.

New Delhi
September 26, 2020

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