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Sri Lanka India Society commemorates 70th Year of Indian Independence

High Commissioner’s speech at Sri Lanka India Society

Hon’ble Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister, and a great friend of India,
Our distinguished guest, Subroto Bagchi,
Mr. T. S. Prakash, President of the Sri Lanka India Society
Other office bearers and members of the Society,
My friends from India and Sri Lanka,
Ladies and Gentlemen..

It is a privilege to be here this evening - an evening dedicated to thoughts, ideas and vision - as we celebrate 70 years of Independence of India. India @ 70, is an occasion to celebrate, contemplate, introspect and ide-ate.

I am delighted, that we have two brilliant thinkers with us today, - one from Sri Lanka & the other from India, Dr. Sarath Amunugama & Mr. Subroto Bagchi, two visionaries, acclaimed authors, scholarly leaders, who have dedicated their lives, to the world of ideas and action, going beyond their own domain!.

I commend the Sri Lanka India Society, for their efforts in putting together this event. They have been playing an important role, in strengthening the millennia-old ties of friendship, between our two great nations.

I have no intention to make, a long speech today - just share a few thoughts.

As you all know, there is an economic revolution, happening in India. India of 2017 is very very different from India a decade ago. It is the young India with more than 50 % under 25 years, that is unleashing the forces of innovation, enterprise and growth. It is this young India, which will create the magic of ‘New India’, in the decades to come. We want Sri Lanka, as our closest neighbour, to be our partner in this magnificent journey!

Sri Lanka is also treading the path of development. As nations who uphold, similar values of democracy, and pluralism, and as nations, who have gained independence around the same time, our dreams are similar. There is a historic opportunity at our hands, to transform these dreams, to reality. We can achieve our dreams only, if we look ahead; if we have a vision, for future. We cannot afford, to remain prisoners of the past; we need to work with passion, for the future.

You would have noticed, that there have been momentous events, in India-Sri Lanka relations, since I met you, last in February. Prime Minister of Sri Lanka H.E. Ranil Wickremesinghe visited India in April. An MoU for cooperation in joint economic projects was signed, during the visit, - is an important milestone, in our bilateral economic engagement.

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi made an historic visit to Sri Lanka, as the Chief Guest for the International Day of Vesak, in May 2017, at the invitation of President of Sri Lanka H.E. Maithripala Sirisena. The visit which was widely seen in Sri Lanka & India - gave our bilateral relations, a huge boost!

As a true friend and neighbor, India has always responded swiftly to needs of Sri Lanka, be it drought, tsunami or floods. You all witnessed the swiftness with which the Indian Naval Ships along with assistance, touched Sri Lankan shores within hours of receiving the request, when Sri Lanka was hit by floods in May 2017.

We will continue to support Sri Lanka in all areas wherever and whenever needed. Currently, India has committed over US$ 2.6 billion in development assistance to Sri Lanka. The figure is only a reflection of the commitment Prime Minister has towards our closest neighbour - Sri Lanka.

We have also been trying to facilitate genuine travel to further strengthen people-to-people ties. Sri Lankan Airlines has been permitted to fly maximum flights to Indian cities. India is bringing in largest number of tourists into Sri Lanka. We have recently reformed our OCI card holder rules. We hope more and more people travel, explore and understand each other’s country.

I consider Sri Lanka India Society as a flag bearer in our journey ahead.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Happiness is when, - what you think, what you say, and what you do, are in harmony”. Let us work together, hand in hand, to create harmony of existence.

Thank you.