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High Commissioner of India, H.E. Santosh Jha’s Speech at the evening reception on the occasion of 75th Republic Day of India

Our Chief Guest Honourable Minister of Tourism and Lands and Sports and Youth Affairs, Mr. Harin Fernando,

 

[Respected Past Presidents of Sri Lanka],

[Honourable Speaker],

 

Honourable Ministers of the Government of Sri Lanka,

 

[Honourable Governors],

Venerable members of the clergy,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Fellow Members of the Diplomatic corps,

Officials of Government of Sri Lanka,

Business Leaders,

Members from the media,

Friends of India and Sri Lanka,

 

Members of the Indian Community, including Persons of Indian Origin

 

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Good Evening, Namaskar,

Ayubowan, Vanakkam!

Let me first of all extend a very warm welcome to all of you.

I am grateful to all of you that you could join us as we celebrate the 75th Republic Day of India.

Your strong presence here is a testimony to the strong bonds of friendship, partnership and cooperation between India and Sri Lanka. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Friends,

On this day, in 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect and India became a Republic. Today we celebrate the establishment of a modern Indian democracy, which is unprecedented in its size, scale and vibrancy. 

It is unparalleled in size and scale because it enfranchises 950 million adult Indians. 

It is vibrant because it demonstrates that democracy delivers. 

And it is unprecedented because it empowers 1.4 billion Indians. 

Our economic journey, in particular in the last decade, has also been remarkable. India is now the fastest growing major economy in the world. We are now the 5th largest economy and poised to become the 3rd largest by 2027-2028. That we were 10th largest ten years ago shows the speed of this journey! 

India truly stands today at an inflection point. The vision of our Prime Minister is to make India a developed country - a Viksit Bharat or a developed India - by 2047. We believe that it is through ‘Sabka Prayas’ or through efforts of all that a ‘Viksit Bharat’ will materialize. There is realization that development, just as democracy, is of the people, for the people and by the people. 

 

 

Friends, 

One of the many major transformations underway in India is built on the implementation of the Unique Digital Identity Number or Aadhar. This has delivered good governance and empowered the poor and the underprivileged in a way not seen before. To give you an example, the Aadhar has enabled the government to deliver food rations to 850 million, provide free medical insurance cover to 500 million and effect cash transfers to 450 million Indians. There are multiple examples of such welfare schemes reaching the poor and the most underprivileged without leakages and in full transparency. Today, India is perhaps the only low-middle income country in the world to deliver societal benefits on such scale and with such impact. 

Beyond this, the Unique Digital Identity Number, along with the UPI, has also ushered a boom in digital financial transactions in India.  Today, 46 of every 100 such transactions in the world are taking place in India.  The digital public infrastructure has also led to spectacular growth of start-ups in India with over 100,000 registered start-ups in just the last decade. And among them are over 100 Unicorns or startups with more than a billion dollar valuation. 

The speed and scale of change is also noteworthy. In the last 18 months, we have installed 400,000 5G sites. Every day in the last five years, we have opened two new colleges in India. Our physical infrastructure is acquiring world class standards. Our technological capabilities were best demonstrated when we landed the Chandrayaan-3 on South Pole of the moon - first by any country. Our journey on renewable energy has also been remarkable. We are on target to achieve 68.4% of our energy or 650 GW from non-fossil sources by 2032. We are also building a formidable green hydrogen capacity. Not surprisingly, we are the only G20 country that is on track to implement and even exceed its Paris Climate commitments. 

Our growing national capabilities are also reflecting in our foreign policy. Our G20 presidency saw consensus on a common outcome, secured the membership for the African Union and championed the cause of the Global South. 

 

Friends,

Our domestic vision is also driving our Neighbourhood First policy. Our SAGAR policy which seeks security and growth for all in the Indian Ocean region is at the heart of our approach towards Sri Lanka.

The India-Sri Lanka partnership has been built on civilizational ties, geographical proximity, cultural connect, strong sense of solidarity and age-old goodwill. In recent years, be it during the COVID-19 pandemic or the economic crisis, India has reaffirmed itself as a trusted and reliable partner of Sri Lanka.

The Vision document adopted by our leaders in July 2023 seeks to build a stronger economic partnership with connectivity as its central theme. 

Since July 2023, we have started daily flights between Jaffna and Chennai, and launched ferry services between India and Sri Lanka. We are working on building mechanisms to establish the India-Sri Lanka Connectivity Corridor.  

We are also advancing multiple energy initiatives. These include the power grid connectivity eventually to enable Sri Lanka to export power to India; the multi-product pipeline, which will boost our shared interest in developing Trincomalee as an economic hub; and we are also working to set up a virtual LNG pipeline from Kochi to Colombo to bring down electricity costs in Sri Lanka. There are other clean energy projects in the private sector as well as the one by the NTPC in Sampur. 

India is also Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner. In 2022, bilateral trade stood at USD 6 billion. In recent years, we have also been the largest foreign investor in Sri Lanka.  India continues to be the largest source of foreign tourists in Sri Lanka. We hope to enhance our economic partnership and enhance Sri Lanka’s export potential through early conclusion of the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement, just as the FTA opened new export opportunities for Sri Lanka to India, which now stands at more than 1 billion dollars.

Till date, we have contributed over 5 billion US dollars towards our development partnership, which has touched every single district of Sri Lanka.  We are working on projects for solar electrification of religious places across Sri Lanka, assisting in modernization of Sri Lanka railways, constructing houses for the poor, enhancing Sri Lanka’s health and education infrastructure, and engaging in ports and airports development. We are working on the Sri Lanka-Unique Digital Identity project and seeking to soon roll out UPI in Sri Lanka. In all of this, India’s priorities are determined by Sri Lanka’s needs and aspirations and that too principally of its citizens. 

 

Friends, 

India and Sri Lanka are natural partners- we are, if I may say, irreplaceable, indispensable, and inseparable as partners. Our interests in matters of security or development are intertwined and interlinked. The huge potential our partnership holds and the tangible impact it can have on the lives of the common people drives me to work harder to further deepen and strengthen it. I look forward to your support and cooperation in this regard.

May a Viksit Bharat propel a Viksit Sri Lanka. 

Jai Hind. Stuti. Nandri. Dhanyavad.

 

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