Sri Lanka on its part sought India’s partnership for reviving its economy badly hit as the covid-19 pandemic impacted the travel and tourism business across the world
India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday held talks to resume cooperation in reviving economic activity in a post-pandemic world in areas such as energy, infrastructure and connectivity, besides pharmaceutical manufacturing and tourism, which are of particular interest to Indian businesses, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said.
Sri Lanka, on its part, sought India’s help to revive its economy, as the pandemic crippled its travel and tourism industry.
Jaishankar on Tuesday reached Colombo on a three-day official visit. He held talks with his counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena and also called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday.
In his remarks, Gunawardena thanked India for its help in dealing with the pandemic. “India’s Neighbourhood-First Policy has made a positive impact on the health sector and economy in this period of unprecedented crisis," he said.
Addressing Sri Lanka as India’s “closest maritime neighbour and partner", Jaishankar said the pandemic had not been able to “dent" bilateral cooperation. High-level contacts were “maintained and indeed strengthened" in 2020, he added, referring to the virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa in September.
Following his meetings with President Rajapaksa and others in the government, besides political leaders from other parties and groups, Jaishankar said: “To all of them, I carry the message of an India that will always be a dependable partner and reliable friend, open to strengthening its relationship with Sri Lanka on the basis of mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual sensitivity."
The reference to “mutual sensitivity" could be seen as a possible allusion to India’s wariness of Sri Lanka’s close ties with strategic rival China when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power between 2005 and 2015.
Referring to the challenges facing the Sri Lankan economy amid the covid-19 pandemic, Jaishankar said his visit was aimed at finding ways to help Colombo address the “specific challenges" whether “it is in finance or in trade".