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On Mahashivratri, India strengthens the civilizational bond with Sri Lanka

Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay after offering prayers at the Thiruketheeswaram temple, one of the five sacred Ishwarams dedicated to Lord Shiva, on the occasion of Mahashivratri on Thursday (All images courtesy: High Commission of India in Colombo)

Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay on Thursday visited the Thiruketeeswaram Temple in the Mannar district to attend the Mahashivratri celebrations, signalling that India's shared cultural links in the region are now being fully mainstreamed in its diplomatic outreach. The High Commissioner, on a two-day visit to the Northern Province, also offered prayers at Ram Setu – the connecting bridge between India and Sri Lanka for centuries – recalling the millennia-old bonding between the two neighbouring countries and the role of historical structures in creating these links.

The legendary Thiruketheeswaram temple, one of the five sacred Ishwarams dedicated to Lord Shiva, is venerated by Shaivites throughout the sub-continent. The Indian government has carried out the restoration project at the Temple under the Indian Grant Assistance of 326 million Lankan rupees. The work was done with the assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India and the College of Architecture and Sculpture, Mamallapuram. The temple was testimony to the most difficult period in the history of Sri Lanka as it was closed for 12 years during the armed conflict and re-opened in 2002.

The restoration project to bring the temple back to its ancient glory, once again rendering it a mirror-image of the famous Shiva Temple in Thanjavur, was taken up in pursuance of the Joint Declaration issued during the visit of Lankan President to India in June 2010.

Ram Setu Sri Lanka

Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay offering prayers at Ram Setu – the connecting bridge between India and Sri Lanka for centuries – on the occasion of Mahashivratri on Thursday

Seeking divine blessings, Baglay, during his visit today, also prayed for the reinforcement of strong bonds between the people of India and Sri Lanka. India and Sri Lanka remain the closest of neighbours, with the edifice of the relationship built upon a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interactions over a period of 2500 years. New Delhi has repeatedly underlined that the relationship has matured and diversified, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance over time.

The shared heritage of Buddhism is also one of the strongest and most abiding links between India and Sri Lanka. In order to further deepen people-to-people linkages between the two countries in this sphere, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced, during the Virtual Bilateral Summit held in September 2020, India’s grant assistance of US$ 15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries. Its utilisation is being worked out in discussions with the Government of Sri Lanka and other relevant stakeholders.

India rebuilds Sri Lanka

It is not just exploring opportunities in the field of civilizational linkages and common heritage such as Buddhism, Ayurveda and Yoga – or assisting Colombo in the ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic – that India continues to give a further impetus to the bilateral relationship.

From Jaffna to Galle, India's flagship Indian Housing Project to construct 50,000 houses with a total allocation of US$ 270 million in grants is changing the lives of many Lankans.

India’s overall commitment of development assistance to Sri Lanka stands at a total of around US$ 3.5 billion and among these, US$ 560 million is under grants.

India Sri Lanka Railways

On Tuesday, overcoming serious disruptions in the supply lines caused by frequent shutdowns and movement restrictions due to Covid-19, the first lot of 10 coaches out of 160 stainless steel passenger coaches supplied by Rail India Technical and Economic Service Limited (RITES) to Sri Lanka Railways was delivered in Colombo.

The state-of-the-art passenger coaches are being manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, a premier production unit of the Indian Railways and are part of financial assistance offered by the Indian government for the development of railway infrastructure in Sri Lanka.

Development of railway infrastructure in Sri Lanka is a focus area in partnership between the two countries and several types of work such as reconstruction of railway lines (268 Kms), installation of signal and telecommunication system (330 Kms), upgradation of coastal railway line (118 Kms) have already been completed.

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New Delhi and Colombo are also working towards early realization of infrastructure and connectivity projects (including in the sectors of ports and energy), renewable energy (with particular emphasis on solar projects), and technical cooperation in the areas of agriculture, animal husbandry, science and technology, health care and AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy).

Amid growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), India is also stepping up security cooperation with the Lankan armed forces through mutual exchange of personnel visits, maritime security cooperation and support to Colombo in the spheres of defence and security.

Besides, three consignments of India-made Covid-19 vaccines in as many months continue to heal Sri Lanka – the first as a gift in January, and the second in the following month to further contain the spread of deadly virus. The third consignment of Covax was delivered last week.

Made In India Covid 19 Vaccine Maitri

The Indian High Commissioner handing over doses of Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccine to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the President of Sri Lanka