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Transcript of Media Briefing in Colombo on ongoing visit of Prime Minister to Sri Lanka

May 12, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Good evening friends. Thank you for your patience. My name is Gopal Baglay, I am spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs of India. I have the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Shri Taranjeet Singh Sandhu with me and Jt. Secretary Shri Sanjay Panda. Without taking more of your time I would request the High Commissioner and then Mr. Panda to mention to you about the ongoing visit of Prime Minister Modi to Sri Lanka in the context of celebrations of International Vesak Day.

High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shri Taranjeet Singh Sandhu: Good evening friends. As all of you aware the Prime Minister of India has come at the invitation of President of Sri Lanka to participate in the International Vesak Day as the Chief Guest. You are all also aware that this is the first time this event is being hosted by Sri Lanka. It was a special event for Sri Lanka and Prime Minister in his approach of "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” has specially come here to lend weight to the festival which is starting tomorrow.

On arrival, Prime Minister Modi was received by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and other senior ministers. Amongst the ministers who were present at the airport Hon’ble Nimal Siripala de Silva, Hon’ble Sajith Premadasa, Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka and Hon’ble Malik Wickremesinghe.

Following the arrival the Prime Minister went straight to Gangaramaya temple for lighting the evening illuminations and there was a ceremony there in which the Prime Minister received the blessings and participated in the ceremony.

Following that, the President of Sri Lanka hosted a private dinner in honor of the Prime Minister. This was again attended by senior ministers of Sri Lanka and senior dignitaries which included Hon’ble Karu Jayasuriya, the Speaker of Sri Lankan parliament, Hon’ble Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Hon’ble Foreign Minister, Hon’ble International Trade Minister, Hon’ble Justice and Buddasasana Minister Mr. Wijeyadasa, the leader of Opposition Mr. Sampanthan, the Chief Minister of Northern Province and some other ministers.

Following that the Prime Minister received former President of Sri Lanka Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa at his request. Sanjay would you like to add something.

Jt. Secretary (Indian Ocean Region) Shri Sanjay Panda:
Friends good evening. I just wanted to add to what His Excellency said. The visit of Prime Minister to Sri Lanka assumes importance because it is a reflection of our common Buddhist heritage that we share and our Buddhist linkage spanning over centuries.

This is the second visit of Prime Minister after the landmark visit in March 2015 and at that time he had visited Anuradhapura, Jaffna and Talaimannar. This time he will be visiting, I am just taking off from His Excellency left, Temple of Tooth Relic at Kandy tomorrow and also he will be the first Prime Minister of India to visit the Hill Country region of Sri Lanka.

He will be dedicating to the people of Sri Lanka a multi-specialty hospital at Dickoya. He will also be addressing a public event there and then from there he will visit Kandy.

The visit in the context of the International Vesak Day but at the same time given the Vesak Day celebrations there are no MoUs or documents to be signed but of course he already had discussions today with Sri Lankan leadership and he will also be interacting tomorrow with them.

There are several areas which were touched upon today during the discussions. I would particularly like to mention that the focus on Buddhism and related promotion of tourism, the Buddhist circuit and connectivity between our two countries and also the President of Sri Lanka mentioned about Bay of Bengal Cooperation which our Prime Minister welcomed.

Prime Minister also assured of India’s continuing support to Sri Lanka and also that we will be a strong development partner for Sri Lanka in the coming days and we are prepared to cooperate with Sri Lanka to contribute to its growth and prosperity.

As His Excellency mentioned a short while ago, it is in the spirit of Prime Minister’s "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” that whenever we talk about participating in projects in Sri Lanka it is with a view that as responsible partners it is also for the development of Sri Lanka. This is what the Prime Minster underlined in his discussions today.

I also wanted to mention that in recent years we have had a qualitative transformation in our overall relationship and there is a renewed momentum that has been provided by exchange of visit during the last 2 or 3 years. I would also like to mention that after this recent visit of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Hon’ble Ranil Wickremesinghe to India and following that after the launch of South Asia Satellite Prime Minister had a video conference call with President Sirisena.

Today during the course of discussions space cooperation also figured in and Prime Minister assured that India would be supportive in any activities related to space to benefit from the South Asia Satellite. So this is also we look forward to enhance space cooperation between our two countries.

In the discussions today and the discussions and interactions which we expect tomorrow wanted to underline that it figures in as part of India’s Neighborhood First policy and Sri Lanka continues to be India’s focus as a very important partner and hope this visit will provide further momentum to our bilateral engagement. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you very much to our High Commissioner and Jt. Secretary. We can take few questions.

Question: You did mention that the Indian Prime Minister received former President Rajapaksa today. I would like to ask what was the focus of the discussion?

High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shri Taranjeet Singh Sandhu: As a democratic country whenever Sri Lankan leaders go to India and whenever Indian leaders come to Sri Lanka, we always respond to request for meetings. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa requested for a call on our Prime Minister and Prime Minister kindly agreed.

Are you looking for any specific issue?

Question Contd.: I would like to know what topics came under discussion during the meeting as you did mention that he was received on at his request.

High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shri Taranjeet Singh Sandhu:
It was a very cordial discussion and former President was very happy about the development cooperation which India has been extending to Sri Lanka over the years including at present.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: With this the media interaction comes to a close. Thank you very much all of you. Have a good night.

(Concludes)

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