Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena, undertaking his first official visit overseas since assuming office, visited India from 9 – 10 January at the invitation of India’s Minister of External Affairs.
The visit was part of the high-level exchanges that took place following the recent presidential elections in Sri Lanka, and a follow up to the state visit of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to India in November 2019.
During the visit, Gunawardena held talks with his counterparts from the Government of India’s Ministries of External Affairs, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Labour and Employment.
The Foreign Relations Minister met his Indian counterpart Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar for bilateral talks on 9 January at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi. During the meeting, the two ministers held cordial and fruitful discussions on a wide range of bilateral issues, including investment, security, fisheries, development assistance and ongoing projects, tourism, education and cultural co-operation among others. They also focused on the recent developments in the global political arena. Following the talks, Minister Jaishankar hosted a lunch in honour of the visit. India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had also called on Minister Gunawardena earlier that day. During his meeting with the Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Gunawardena briefed him on the new Government’s policies of technology-driven economic growth, people-centric economy and new plans for youth and skills development, while inviting the Indian side to share their expertise and experiences in those fields with Sri Lanka, including training opportunities. The two ministers contemplated signing an MoU to achieve these objectives. Minister Gunawardena also met with India’s Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar to discuss issues of mutual interest.
On 10 January, Minister Gunawardena addressed the members of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) with a view to enhancing investments from India to Sri Lanka in a market that currently has an annual bilateral exchange of goods worth over $5 billion, and invited a business delegation from the FICCI to visit Sri Lanka.
The Minister visited the Centre for Science and Environment, a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, as well as the New Delhi Centre of the Mahabodhi Society of India, where he received the blessings of the Maha Sangha. He also visited the High Commission of Sri Lanka in New Delhi and met its staff.
He was accompanied in these meetings by the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in India Austin Fernando and other senior Government officials.