Speaking at an event to celebrate the 65th Republic Day of India this morning at India House in Colombo, Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Y.K. Sinha said that the end of the armed conflict presents an unparalleled opportunity to build a brighter future for all Sri Lankans.
India continues to urge all stakeholders to engage constructively, in a spirit of partnership and mutual accommodation; as such a cooperative approach will pave the way for genuine reconciliation and a political settlement in Sri Lanka.
The Government of India welcomed the successful culmination of elections to three Provincial Councils, including the Northern Provincial Council, in September 2013, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a statement.
The High Commissioner noted, that the President of India had highlighted, that in India, democracy is not a gift, but the fundamental right of every citizen; for those in power, democracy is a sacred trust. The slowdown of the Indian economy in the last two years can be some cause for concern but none for despair. Signs of revival of the Indian economy are already visible.
The agricultural growth in the first half of this year has touched 3.6 per cent and rural economy is buoyant. India possesses a dynamic civil society with an innovative mindset. The Indian people, whether in villages or cities, share a vibrant, unique consciousness and culture. Education is no longer just the privilege of the elite, but a universal right. It is the seed of a nation’s destiny.
India must usher in an education revolution that becomes a launching pad for the national resurgence. The President of India has stated that 1950 saw the birth of the Indian Republic, but 2014 would be the year of its resurgence.
Speaking about the state of India-Sri Lanka relations, the High Commissioner said that a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with Sri Lanka, our nearest and in many ways our dearest neighbour, continues to remain at the core of India’s neighbourhood policy.
He reiterated that India is committed to Sri Lanka as a partner for realizing peace, harmony, growth and development. Our bilateral relations have been built on a rich legacy of civilizational, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction. The advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE is linked with the arrival in Sri Lanka of Prince Mahendra, known as Arahat Mahinda here, and later of Princess Sanghamitra, who were the children of the great Indian Emperor Ashoka.
The High Commissioner highlighted that economic relations continue to be robust, with bilateral trade in 2013 at about US$ 4 billion. The High Commissioner also stressed the need to expedite the implementation of the Sampur Power Project so that the energy needs of Sri Lanka are addressed. A host of other projects and initiatives in diverse areas are in various stages of implementation.
The High Commissioner noted that the problem of fishermen of both countries straying across the international maritime boundary line dividing our countries requires to be handled with sensitivity, taking into account the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions. The meeting between fishermen’s associations on the two sides, scheduled to be held in Chennai on 27th January, is expected to lay the foundation for a long term resolution of this issue.
The High Commissioner recalled that the India-Sri Lanka partnership for Development Cooperation is built on the foundations of political understanding, a historic past, geographic realities and socio-cultural empathy. Although the nature of our assistance has continued to evolve since 2009, the focus remains mainly on capacity building, human resource development and infrastructure support. In the second phase of the Housing Project involving construction of 43,000 houses under an owner-driven approach, we have successfully completed 10,250 houses as on 31 December 2013.
A brief cultural programme organized by the Indian Cultural Centre followed. The High Commissioner of India and other officials of the High Commission paid their respects to the memory of fallen soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in a solemn ceremony at the IPKF memorial in Colombo.