(MENAFN- Trend press agency)
Foreign Minister Harsh Shringla on Monday held talks with senior Sri Lankan leaders, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to review bilateral relations and development cooperation during a visit to build momentum for relations against the backdrop of China’s growing presence in the island nation, Trend reports citing Hindustantimes.
Ten Sri Lankan ministers, including Foreign Minister GL Peiris, joined Shringla in the inauguration of several Indian-funded development projects in the housing and education sectors. Shringla reaffirmed that India will stand by the Sri Lankan government in its efforts for post-Covid-19 recovery.
Two days before Harsh Shringla began his visit to Sri Lanka on October 2, the state-owned Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) signed an agreement with the Indian group Adani to develop and manage the western container terminal of the strategic port. from Colombo. It came about eight months after Sri Lanka reneged on a 2019 deal with India and Japan to operate the eastern container terminal, angering both countries.
Adani Group and its local partner John Keells Holdings will jointly own an 85% stake in the western container terminal, giving India a much-needed strategic presence at the Port of Colombo, where nearly 70% of operations involve shipments to India.
Foreign Minister’s visit to Colombo seen as an opportunity to re-establish bilateral relations after recent issues such as the removal of the MoU on the Eastern Container Terminal, and to assess development assistance needs from Sri Lanka.
Peiris, who was recently appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of the Prime Minister, who was appointed Minister of Finance, are seen as strategists who understand the importance of India at a time when the Sri Lanka faces financial pressures from declining foreign exchange reserves and food shortages.
India’s relationship with Sri Lanka is considered one of the most important in the neighborhood, although there was heartburn in New Delhi because of Colombo quickly clearing projects funded by the China in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic while slowing down India’s proposals such as the development of the oil storage facility at Trincomalee.
The Indian High Commission said the four projects in the housing and education sectors which were jointly inaugurated by Shringla Peiris exemplified “India’s strong and multifaceted development cooperation profile.”
The Indian side handed over 1,235 houses built under the third phase of the Indian Housing Project (IHP), which is part of the largest financial assistance project for the construction of 50,000 houses at a cost of 1,372 crore . A total of 4,000 houses will be built in the third phase, and more than 3,500 have already been completed.
The Indian side also handed over 24 houses built for low-income families in Vavuniya district as part of the model village housing project. A total of 600 houses will be built in 25 neighborhoods as part of this project.
The two sides also inaugurated Vada Central Ladies College in Vadamarachi in Northern Province and Saraswathi Central College in Pusellawa in Kandy District.
Shringla reviewed bilateral cooperation during a delegation-level meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Jayanath Colombage, and discussed economic and trade ties and post-pandemic economic recovery when he met. with Minister of Finance Rajapaksa.
During her meeting with Foreign Minister Peiris, Shringla focused on concluding projects quickly and improving connectivity to help accelerate Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. The Indian High Commission also tweeted that Shringla had had a productive discussion with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister on “consolidating the India-Sri Lanka multifaceted partnership”.
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