Tuesday, 27 January 2015 00:01
The High Commission of India and the Indian expatriate community in Sri Lanka yesterday celebrated the 66th Republic Day of India at India House in Colombo.
High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha unfurled the Indian flag and inspected a Guard of Honour presented by a contingent of the Border Security Force. He read out significant excerpts from the Address to the Nation on the eve of Republic Day by the President of India Pranab Mukherjee.
The High Commissioner noted that the President of India had highlighted that the Indian Constitution is the holy book of democracy. It is a lodestar for the socio-economic transformation of an India whose civilisation has celebrated pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill between diverse communities. In India, the past year has been remarkable in many ways, wherein the people of India voted for a clean, efficient, effective, gender-sensitive, transparent, accountable and citizen-friendly governance.
The President of India has noted that the most powerful example of India’s soft power in an international environment lies in our definition of the relationship between faith and polity. Wisdom of India teaches us: unity is strength, dominance is weakness. Year 2015 is a year of hope. Key economic indicators provide for much optimism.
Strengthening of the external sector, move towards fiscal consolidation, moderation in price levels, early signs of rebound in manufacturing and record agricultural production last year augur well for our economy. Finally, the President said that our national ambition is to raise the quality of life of Indians by quantum leaps and raise generations enlightened by learning, patriotism, compassion, honesty and a sense of duty.
Speaking about the state of India-Sri Lanka relations, the High Commissioner highlighted that India shares a special relationship with Sri Lanka which is not just geographical, but dictated by ties of shared religions, cultural practices, family linkages, linguistic commonalities, economic inter linkages, and political understanding between two democracies.
He congratulated the people of Sri Lanka on the peaceful conduct of the elections, and stated that India stands ready to continue to provide support and partnership to Sri Lanka in realising its people’s aspirations. He noted that the electoral victory of President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena is a tribute to his capacity to respond to Sri Lankan people’s yearning for change.
High Commissioner stated that India and Sri Lanka enjoy a vibrant and growing economic and commercial partnership, with both trade and investment expanding sharply in recent years. Bilateral trade witnessed an upswing in 2014 and in the period January-November 2014, amounted to nearly $ 4 billion. Robust trade in goods has promoted bilateral investment. Premier Indian companies have displayed great interest in Sri Lanka. The ‘Make in India’ initiative will attract more Sri Lanka companies to invest in India. The High Commissioner said that both countries should now focus attention on the investments and services sector by forging linkages across the production and supply chains of the two countries.
The High Commissioner stated that one important pillar of modern India-Sri Lanka relations is development cooperation, which has been built on the foundation of mutual trust and understanding. The flagship Indian Housing Project in Sri Lanka continues to make excellent progress, with the project reaching its target of constructing 16,000 houses during 2014. With the achievement of this important milestone, a total of 27,000 houses have been constructed under this project till date. The reconstruction of the railway line up to Jaffna, carried out under a concessional Indian Line of Credit of about $ 800 million, was a seminal moment. With the inauguration of this segment of the railway track, the ‘Yal Devi’ Express that used to ply on this route, resumed its services to Jaffna, reconnecting Jaffna to Colombo by rail after more than 24 years. All these projects illustrate the tangible benefits that can be achieved through South-South cooperation.
The High Commissioner added that the prosperity and security of the two countries is indivisible. India looks forward to working with the new Government of Sri Lanka to take the bilateral relationship to the next level for the benefit of the people of the two countries and the South Asian region as a whole
A brief cultural program organised by the Indian Cultural Centre followed. Its highlights were singing of patriotic songs and dance performances by the students of the Indian Cultural Centre. Subsequently, the High Commissioner of India and other officials of the High Commission paid their respects to the memory of fallen soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in a solemn ceremony at the IPKF memorial in Colombo.
To commemorate India´s 66th Republic Day, famous Indian sitar maestro, Shri Niladri Kumar, and his group, who are visiting Sri Lanka with the sponsorship of the India-Sri Lanka Foundation, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Lanka IOC, Lanka Leyland and Taj Samudra, presented a concert of fusion music titled ‘Salute: Celebrating India’ on 25 January 2015 at the Bishop’s College Auditorium, Colombo. State Minister for Child Development of Sri Lanka Rosy Senanayake was the Chief Guest on the occasion. The performance was extremely well received.
The Consulates General of India in Jaffna and Hambantota and the Assistant High Commission of India in Kandy also celebrated the 66th Republic Day by organising flag hoisting ceremonies this morning.
Pix by Shehan Gunasekara