India extends $15 million grant for promotion of Buddhist ties with Sri Lanka

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India on Saturday announced a grant assistance of $15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties with Sri Lanka besides affirming to expand defence partnership eyeing to stabilise the Southern Indian Ocean.

These decisions were announced at the first ever virtual summit between PM Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. This was also India’s first such summit with a neighbour.

Modi announced a grant assistance of $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, officials said.

It was agreed that the Indian side would facilitate the visit of a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Lanka in the first inaugural flight Kushinagar. The Kushinagar Airport was designated as an international airport recently recognizing its importance as a Buddhist site.

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, officials informed after the Summit. Both leaders acknowledged the progress made in information sharing and cooperation in both counter-terrorism efforts and in dealing with regional drug trafficking.

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 Modi to inaugurate the project.

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.

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.

The ongoing infrastructure and connectivity projects were discussed and 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, according to officials.

India has already provided a $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 $1 billion by the Sri Lankan side remains under discussion. Technical discussions on Sri Lanka’s request for debt deferment are going on.

Both leaders also exchanged views on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister 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. The two leaders also exchanged views on the fishermen related issues.



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