Sri Lanka has expressed interest in procuring COVID-19 vaccines from India, visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar said.
The Indian External Affairs Minister who arrived in the island at the invitation of the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Dinesh Gunawardena, held bilateral discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa this morning as a part of the first official visit to Sri Lanka by a foreign dignitary in 2021. Jaishankar is also due to meet with Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.
At a media briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena extended his gratitude to Dr. Jaishankar for embarking on his first official foreign engagement in 2021 to Sri Lanka.
“I come here at a time when both our countries are faced with the daunting and common challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, it has given us the opportunity to collaborate even further. India has supported Sri Lanka’s efforts to tackle Covid through timely medical assistance,” Dr. Jaishankar said.
“We are now looking at post-covid cooperation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India. I shared with the Honourable Foreign Minister that India sees international cooperation in this area as its duty,” the Indian External Affairs Minister said. He added that it is gratifying to note that the coronavirus has not been able to dent bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Minister Jaishankar also said India’s Covid-19 numbers have come down sharply, adding that the prospect of mass vaccination in sight.
Indian businesses are strongly interested in investing in Sri Lanka, the visiting dignitary also highlighted. “We have discussed some important opportunities including special zones for pharmaceutical manufacturing as also in tourism. I will ensure early follow-up from the Indian side,” he said.
“I held cordial and friendly bilateral discussions with Honorable Dr. Jaishankar Minister of External Affairs of India. During our talks we focused on multiple areas of mutual cooperation, identifying sectors of economy, finance, trade, commerce, defence, security, fisheries and particularly on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister Gunawardena conveyed Sri Lanka’s profound gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian government and to the External Affairs Minister for the tremendous support India extended in these past several months to mitigate the adverse impact of the pandemic. “The Indian government’s neighborhood first policy made a very positive impact on our health sector in a critical and unprecedented crisis,” he said.
The Sri Lanka delegation also sought India’s partnership in economic revival, stability through enhanced investment in different sectors of the economy. “We discussed defence and security matters as well as issues related to maritime and fisheries sectors. Agreed to continue our current momentum in these areas, and also to curb illegal activities with continued cooperation,” Minister Gunawardena commented.
India’s offer of USD 15 million to restore Buddhist heritage in addition to all other support extended by India was announced by Indian PM Modi during the virtual summit with the PM Rajapaksa in September, was commended by the Sri Lankan Minister.
Meanwhile, the Jaffna Cultural centre built at a cost of USD 11 million from India will be soon declared open as the countries agree on the dates, he said.
The visiting Indian Minister will also meet with political and community leaders, as well as interactions with the business community during his visit. (Kalani Kumarasinghe)