- Broad array of issues discussed including development of a stronger economic partnership between 2 countries
- Biz leaders call for establishment of a bilateral forum to discuss business-related issues
- Also discussed was greater utilisation of Indo-Lanka FTA and possibility of an expanded FTA
- Dr. Jaishankar promises to take what is discussed to attention of relevant ministers on Indian side
Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar on Thursday interacted with the captains of Sri Lankan business and industry that represented prominent business conglomerates and manufacturing entities in the country.
The invitees who participated in the interaction were MAS Holdings Chairman/Co-Founder Deshamanya Mahesh Amalean, John Keells Holdings Chairman and CEO Krishan Balendra, SLTDA Chairperson Kimarli Fernando, Indian CEO Forum Sri Lanka President Umesh Gautam, Sunshine Holdings PLC Group MD Vish Govindasamy, Brandix Lanka Limited Group CEO Ashroff Omar, Hayleys PLC Chairman and Chief Executive Mohan Pandithage and Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya.
A media communiqué by the Indian High Commission in Colombo said there was a comprehensive exchange of views on a broad array of issues, including the development of a stronger economic partnership between India and Sri Lanka, specially in the context of jointly overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The business leaders appreciated the bilateral initiatives aimed at reviving economic growth in Sri Lanka and conveyed their desire to work closely for reinforcing India-Sri Lanka trade and business ties,” the communiqué said.
It further noted that there was considerable interest regarding early-resumption of tourist travel from India and cooperation on vaccines for COVID-19.
“Certain other ideas put forward by business leaders included the establishment of a bilateral forum to discuss business-related issues, greater utilisation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement and the possibility of an expanded free trade agreement (FTA) between the two sides, conclusion of a Mutual Recognition arrangement on standards, air-bubble arrangement for business travel and the possibility of Indian investments in the socio-economic domain in Sri Lanka that would help in boosting local employment,” the communiqué stated.
The invitees also briefed Dr. Jaishankar regarding their business linkages with India and expressed hope for overall expansion and strengthening of the bilateral economic partnership for mutual benefit.
It was also brought to the light that India could play an important role in supporting manufacturing in Sri Lanka through technology, training and investments.
In his remarks, Dr. Jaishankar appreciated the inputs provided by Sri Lankan business and mentioned that he would bring them to the attention of relevant ministers on the Indian side.
He also mentioned that India would like to expand its engagement with the Sri Lankan economy and referred to certain promising areas such as pharmaceuticals, IT, vocational training, skill development, etc. in this regard.
The External Affairs Minister also expressed confidence that the neighbourhood would be the priority region for India when it starts sharing COVID-19 vaccines internationally.
He also briefed the participants about the efforts in India related to various aspects of development, manufacturing and logistics for administering COVID-19 vaccines in India.
Dr. Jaishankar further pointed out that the cessation of tourism had impacted nearly 15 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, which has direct or indirect links with the tourism sector.
He mentioned India’s successful ‘Air-travel Bubble’ arrangements with more than 20 countries, which had helped in partial restoration of travel and mitigated some of the difficulties faced by people and economies.
Recalling that India was the largest source of tourists for Sri Lanka last year, he noted the potential for enhancing tourism between India and Sri Lanka in view of proximity and cultural similarities between the two countries.
The External Affairs Minister pointed out the need to encourage and support initiatives for attracting mutually beneficial investment from India. He added that collaborations could flourish in an environment conducive for business.
Speaking about the improving performance of the Indian economy, the External Affairs Minister mentioned various initiatives taken by the government such as performance-linked incentives and measures to enhance India’s standing in the ‘ease of doing business’ rankings.
He also mentioned that the economic recovery in India in the third quarter of financial year 2020-21 has been better than anticipated and close linkages between Indian and Sri Lankan economies will ensure that this will positively impact Sri Lanka’s economy as well as recovery.