January 6, 2020: India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishanakar is on a three day visit to Sri Lanka. He reached Sri Lanka on January 5 where he will discuss various aspects of bilateral relationship with leaders in Sri Lanka. This is his first visit foreign visit in 2021.
Speaking at a joint media briefing with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena on January 6, Dr Jaishankar said that India is looking towards post-COVID-19 cooperation with Sri Lanka.
“It [COVID] hasn’t been able to dent our bilateral cooperation. In fact, high level contacts were maintained and indeed strengthened during the past year and the virtual summit between our prime ministers was the watermark of our relationship in 2020,” he said.
Sri Lanka reported its first case of COVID-19 on January 27, 2020. Since then, Sri Lanka has reported 45726 cases. Sri Lanka is also close to finalising an agreement to secure COVID-19 vaccine via the United Nations-backed COVAX facility. COVAX is run by Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) which subsidises the vaccine shots for 92 low and middle income countries. Sri Lanka has been approved by GAVI.
India’s assistance to Sri Lanka has been proven useful in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2015 visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India approved the proposal of grant of $7.56 million for ambulance services. In 2016, the ‘1990 Suwa Seriya’ Emergency Ambulance was launched in Sri Lanka’s Western and Southern Provinces, with 88 ambulances. India also provided training to the professionals working on the ambulance service. Sri Lanakan authorities have now taken full charge of the service after initial partnership in training and operations provided by India.
Sri Lanka and India have a long history of cooperation in various fields. Both countries are members of several multilateral organisations like South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). A bilateral trade agreement was also signed between the two countries which came into effect in 2000. India has extended a number of development cooperation agreements with Sri Lanka. After the end of the Sri Lankan Civil war in 2009, India offered assistance in relief packs, deployment of emergency medical facilities,revival of agriculture, housing, and infrastructure development including hospitals.