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India, Sri Lanka hold Virtual Bilateral Summit;India extends US$ 15 Million for promotion of Buddhist Ties

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PM Modi hold Virtual Bilateral Summit with Sri Lanka's Prime MinisterOn September 26, 2020 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held a Virtual Bilateral Summit. During the summit, the two leaders discussed bilateral relations, and mutual areas of concern in Regional and International issues. This is the first such Bilateral meet between the two countries since Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election to office in August, 2020.

Highlights:

The Two Sides agreed to increase bilateral relationship through several initiatives.  

i.They agreed to increase cooperation to combat terrorism and drug trafficking. They also decided to extend the cooperation in Intelligence, Information Sharing, de-radicalization and capacity building.

ii.The two countries agreed to work together to complete construction of 10, 000 housing units in plantation areas announced by PM Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2017.

iii.Strengthening of technical cooperation in areas of agriculture, animal husbandry, science & technology, health care and AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy). Increased emphasis on Skill Development to realize the full potential of both the countries.

Focus on Solar Project:

The Both sides also resolved to deepen cooperation in the renewable energy sector, with Special focus on Solar Projects under the US $ 100 Million Line of Credit from India. 

Establishment of Air Bubble:

The sides also discussed the establishment of an Air Bubble to resume travel between the two countries. 

Other Key Points:

i.Strengthening of people-to-people ties by exploring opportunities in areas of common heritage such as Buddhism, Ayurveda and Yoga

ii.Emphasis on early completion of infrastructure and connectivity projects in sectors of Ports and Energy as per Bilateral agreements and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). 

iii.The Government of India agreed to facilitate the visit of a Delegation Buddhish pilgrims from Sri Lanka in the Inaugural International Flight to the city of Kushinagar(Recently announced as International Airport due to its significance in Buddhism).

iv.Efforts to increase the engagement under the MoU for implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) for the period 2020-2025.

Issue of Fishermen:

i.The two sides also agreed to address the issues related to fishermen through regular consultation according to existing frameworks and goals including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

ii.The Two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation between armed forces of two sides through mutual exchange of personnel visits, maritime security cooperation and support to Sri Lanka in Defence and Security. 

India extends US$ 15 Million for promotion of Buddhist Ties:

i.PM Modi also announced a grant assistance of US$ 15 million (approximately Rs.110 crores) for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries.

ii.It will deepen people-to-people linkages through construction/renovation of Buddhist Monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of The Buddha’s relics and strengthening the engagement between Buddhist Scholars and clergy of two countries.

Financial Discussions:

Sri Lanka requested India for $1.1 billion Bilateral currency swap. India discussed the issue of deferring the debt repayment by Sri Lanka during the Summit.

International Platforms:

i.India and Sri Lanka agreed to increase cooperation on regional and international issues within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and United Nations (UN). 

ii.India, Srilanka recognized BIMSTEC as a major platform for linking South Asia and SouthEast Asia and agreed to work for a successful BIMSTEC Summit, which is to be hosted under the Chairmanship of Sri Lanka. 

SAGAR Doctrine:

i.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) Doctrine, and Neighbourhood First Policy under which Sri Lanka has been given priority. 

ii.SAGAR is India’s Policy or doctrine of Maritime Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, it was unveiled in March, 2015. 

About Sri Lanka:
President – Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Capital – Colombo, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte
Currency – Sri Lankan Rupee