By Ifham Nizam
Visiting Foreign Secretary of India, Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday had discussions on further strengthening bilateral ties to face the present global crisis situation.
Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa appreciated Indian assistance to Sri Lanka and added mutual understanding would further enhance relations.
The Indian Foreign Secretary assured India’s support to uplift Sri Lanka’s economy, adversely affected by the pandemic.
He said Indian businessmen would be encouraged to explore opportunities in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s office said one of the topics of discussion centered on the resumption of tourism.
India has been Sri Lanka’s top source of tourists, with inbound tourism from India making up about 18% of the total tourists arrivals in pre-COVID times.
During the meeting, the two delegations discussed a number of sectors of mutual cooperation, including the further strengthening of bilateral relations, ongoing projects, tourism and the promotion of Buddhist ties.
Premier Rajapaksa appreciated Prime Minister Modi’s initiative to promote Buddhist ties. Secretary Shringla said it was a priority area of Prime Minister Modi.
Last year, during the virtual bilateral summit between the two Prime Ministers, the Indian Prime Minister announced a USD15 million grant for the promotion of Buddhist ties that aimed to deepen people-to-people linkages between the two countries.
Secretary Shringla said India was also looking forward to receiving the first pilgrims’ flight, from Sri Lanka, to the Kushinagar Airport, after it was upgraded as an international airport. This was also a request made by Prime Minister Modi during the virtual summit last year.