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Riding on new connectivity wave, India and Sri Lanka focus big on island nation’s north

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe in New Delhi on Friday (Image courtesy: PIB)

India and Sri Lanka on Friday adopted a vision document to strengthen their economic partnership by accelerating connectivity in the maritime, air, energy and people-to-people domains.

The focus was particularly on the northern Jaffna Peninsula and Trincomalee on the northeast coast of the country as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe underlined the “cardinal importance” of promoting and strengthening connectivity in all its dimensions during their meeting in New Delhi today.

Strategically located, Jaffna and Trincomalee are largely inhabited by Tamils. These areas had suffered massive devastation during the bloody Lankan civil war that lasted for more than 25 years.

Jaffna served as an important base for the Lankan military forces in the northern theatre during its long conflict with the LTTE.

Located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Trincomalee harbour is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world with the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English having fought many sea battles to conquer it.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com earlier, New Delhi is deeply engaged with Colombo on the development of the Oil Tank Farm in Trincomalee, a mutually beneficial proposition that promises to assist Sri Lanka in building petroleum reserves and address supply and price volatility.

“We have decided that the work of connecting the electricity grids between the two countries will be expedited. A feasibility study will be done for a petroleum pipeline between India and Sri Lanka. Apart from this, the feasibility of a land bridge will also be examined,” announced PM Modi.

Wickremesinghe, who is on his first visit to India since assuming office as Lankan President last year, spotlighted that the development of Trincomalee as an energy hub with the support of India is a crucial step towards Sri Lanka’s goal to elevate Trincomalee as a hub for industry and other economic activities

“Prime Minister Modi and I believe that the construction of a multi-product petroleum pipeline from the Southern part of India to Sri Lanka will ensure an affordable and reliable supply of energy resources to Sri Lanka,” he said.

In May, the Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari laid the foundation stone of India-Sri Lanka Friendship Auditorium at the Lanka Air Force Academy in Trincomalee that will be constructed under the 250 million LKR grant assistance by the Government of India (GOI), in line with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

At the same time, India has also been associated with several development partnership projects in the war-torn peninsula of Jaffna. The iconic Jaffna Cultural Centre, the foundation stone of which was laid by Prime Minister Modi in 2015, was inaugurated this February.

India’s “timely, unprecedented, and crucial support” was deeply appreciated by Wickremesinghe as both leaders held “productive and outcome-oriented” discussions.

Later, both countries announced that they will cooperate in development of ports and logistics infrastructure at Colombo, Trincomalee and Kankesanthurai with an aim to consolidate regional logistics and shipping.

New Delhi and Colombo also agreed to resume passenger ferry services between Nagapattinam in India and Kankesanthurai in Sri Lanka and work towards early resumption of ferry services between Rameshwaram and Talaimannar, and other mutually agreed places.

After resuming Chennai-Jaffna flight connectivity from the Jaffna International Airport – rebuilt with Indian assistance – last December, both countries are also currently exploring air connectivity between Chennai and Trincomalee, Batticaloa and other destinations in Sri Lanka.

The longstanding partnerships have been yet another shining example of close cooperation between the two friendly neighbours, ensuring Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), as envisioned by PM Modi.

Sri Lanka has been accorded the status of ‘Priority One’ partner by India and New Delhi continues to lend unprecedented financial support to Lankans to help them overcome their economic hardships.

“A stable, secure and prosperous Sri Lanka is not only in the interest of India, but also in the interest of the entire Indian Ocean Region. I assure once again, that the people of India are with the Sri Lankan people in their hour of struggle,” said PM Modi at the Hyderabad House on Friday with Wickremesinghe standing by his side.

With India keen on popularising the Buddhist circuit and Sri Lanka its Ramayana trail as well as other ancient places of Buddhist and Hindu worship, both countries agreed that enhanced connectivity will also play a crucial role in strengthening cooperation in tourism, people-to-people exchanges and cultural relations.

“The foundations of our joint vision of greater future connectivity have already been laid through millennia-old civilisational, cultural, human and commercial interactions between our two countries. The thread of connectivity is woven through our history,” mentioned Lankan President Wickremesinghe while emphasising that India is currently the top market for inbound tourism for Sri Lanka.

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