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Sri Lanka seeks partnerships with India in infrastructure, services

[Hindu, Friday, 4 June 2010 11:06 No Comment]

Ahead of his visit to India next week, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday said there was an immense scope to boost the “irreversible” bilateral ties and sought partnerships in infrastructure, manufacturing and services sector between the two neighbours.

“The relationship between Sri Lanka and India has been anchored in a rich heritage and is irreversible… We are now adding new spice to our relations with India and the world, with new and varied business opportunities,” Mr. Rajapaksa said inaugurating a business forum organised by the Indian and Sri Lankan Chambers of Commerce as part of the IIFA awards ceremony here.

“Today, we extend our hand of friendship and opportunity to all nationalities and communities, while we are well on our way to bring about a true re-conciliation within our communities and extensive economic empowerment among our people,” the President, who would visit India on June 8, said.

He expressed his strong belief that to bring permanent peace there must be development. “As I have often said, there is no peace without development, and no development without peace.”

“Those of you who are keen to explore will find abundant opportunities for investment in Sri Lanka,” he said adding the scope is immense: from infrastructure, agri-business and manufacturing to a range of services.

The President said his country also offered a rare package of skills, capacity and willingness to learn and adapt.

“Our policy is vibrant, our package is enticing and exciting, and you would do well to join us in our forward march. I earnestly invite you to do so,” he said.

The world business community is now slowly but surely acknowledging and appreciating Sri Lanka’s “major” successes in the economic sphere, though not much is reported in the media, he told the gathering.

Mr. Rajapaksa said there was still “undue” pressure being exerted on Sri Lanka by some elements that supported the LTTE. “You are well aware of those elements,” he said without elaborating.

On the problems of Internally Displaced People (IDPs), the President said that what Sri Lanka achieved in terms of rehabilitation of those “misled” youth and resettlement of the IDPs, is far superior than any such exercise anywhere in the world.

“You are aware of the victory we achieved over the forces of terror, just one year ago. It is well known today that the LTTE introduced suicide bombings, child soldiers and remote-controlled vehicle bombs, adding a new dimension to terrorism,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.

The LTTE also brought advanced methods of financing “terror and large scale misinformation campaigns” to the modern world, Mr. Rajapaksa said, adding that fortunately the government’s efforts to overcome this menace ended in a resounding success.

On economic achievements, Mr. Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka’s per capita income doubled to more than $2,000 during the past 5 years.

“Our plan for the next 5 years is to double it once again to USD 4,000 and we are well on track towards that goal,” he said.

On Indo-Sri Lanka ties, he said Sri Lanka’s links with India date back to history, ranging from the times of Ramayana to the noble teachings of the Buddha.

He thanked IIFA for choosing Colombo as the venue for its colourful awards ceremony and FICCI-IIFA Business Forum this year.

Sri Lanka’s Ranjith Page, Mahesh Amalean and actor Anupam Kher were awarded the CNBC-IIFA Global Leadership award by Mr. Rajapaksa on the occasion.

Earlier, Jyotsna Suri, Chairperson of the FICCI tourism council, said tourism sector which includes cross exchanges between Buddhist centres and the Ramayana trail in the two countries can be a huge draw.

Similarly, food processing, SME sector and IT and knowledge-based sectors have good scope, she said.

Colombo can be transformed into a shopping and entertainment paradise of South Asia, tourism officials said.

Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Ashok Kanta said the ties between the two countries are rooted in history and geography.

“Our destinies are linked to each other. Need of the hour is to leverage the synergies. Possibilities of ferry and regional air services can also be explored to boost regional trade and transit,” he said.

Former Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said the geographical ties between the two countries should be binding rather than dividing.

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