November 3, 2023
NEW DELHI – India will work closely with Sri Lanka to deepen their civilizational ties with connectivity as a new focus area, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.
She further affirmed that India continues to work closely with the government of Sri Lanka on debt restructuring discussions as well as on its path of economic recovery.
The minister was addressing the 200 years of arrival of Indian-origin Tamils in Sri Lanka – NAAM 200 Event.
She said some of the connectivity projects that have already made progress include the commencement of passenger ferry services, negotiations on an economic and technological cooperation agreement, and the UPI-based digital payments, which will be launched very soon.
“As we enhance connectivity between the two countries, we build enduring bridges of experience and opportunities for our people, the Indian origin Tamils will continue to play an important role in shaping a shared future for our two countries,” she said.
Sitharaman highlighted that India rendered unprecedented financial assistance of over USD 4 billion for the people of Sri Lanka. It was the first bilateral creditor to convey financing assurance to the International Monetary Fund, she said.
“It paved the way for others to provide similar assurances that formalized the IMF programme for Sri Lanka,” she added.
While talking about the India-backed housing project scheme, Sitharaman highlighted that 3,700 houses have already been handed over to the plantation workers under the scheme.
“Foundation stone for 10,000 houses under phase four of the programme had also been laid,” she said.
India will also be helping the island country on the education front as the finance minister announced that it would soon send teacher trainers to work with local teachers in Sri Lanka.
This aims to keep them abreast of the latest developments and also enhance the teaching skills in meeting the growing needs and aspirations of students from Malayaha Tamils.
Sitharaman highlighted that the leaders from both the governments have released a vision document for economic partnership in July this year, outlining specific areas of cooperation for sustainable economic development and prosperity for our people.
“Our government will work closely with the Sri Lankan government in realising the vision provided by our leadership,” she said.
The finance minister also inaugurated a State Bank of India (SBI) branch in Sri Lanka’s Trincomalee city, during her ongoing visit to Sri Lanka.
In a post on X, the Union finance ministry said Governor of Eastern Province Senthil Thondaman, India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay and SBI chairman Dinesh Khara were also present at the inauguration.
Sitharaman is on a three-day visit to Sri Lanka, and she is planned to inaugurate a branch of SBI in Jaffna on Friday.