Sri Lanka celebrates 67th Independence Day of India

Friday, 16 August 2013 03:48 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The High Commission of India and the Indian expatriate community in Sri Lanka celebrated the 67th Independence Day of India yesterday at India House in Colombo. High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha unfurled the national flag, which was followed by a rendering of the Indian national anthem by ladies from the High Commission and the Indian community. The High Commissioner inspected the Guard of Honour presented by the BSF contingent and read out excerpts from the address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day by President of India Pranab Mukherjee. The High Commissioner also conveyed his greetings on the occasion to the citizens of Sri Lanka and noted the dynamic developments over the past year in taking forward the strong, friendly and time-tested relationship between India and Sri Lanka. In his address, the High Commissioner referred to the exchange of high-level visits, particularly the visit of the Sri Lankan President to India in September 2012 to lay the foundation stone of the University of Buddhist and Indic Studies in Sanchi and in January 2013 to Bodhgaya; the visit of  the Minister of External Affairs and the Minister for Economic Development of Sri Lanka to India in January 2013 and July 2013 respectively, the visit of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Smt. Meira Kumar, to Sri Lanka in September 2012, the visit of the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles Shri Anand Sharma to Sri Lanka in August 2012, the visit of the National Security Adviser of India, to Sri Lanka in July 2013 and the visit of a five-member multi-party delegation from the Indian Parliament to Sri Lanka in April 2013, which have imparted fresh dynamism to the ongoing dialogue and cooperation between our countries. The High Commissioner highlighted the vibrant and growing economic and commercial partnership between India and Sri Lanka and noted that since the operationalisation of the India Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2000, trade has multiplied by as much as eight times, crossing the milestone of $ 5 billion in 2011-12 and the cumulative FDI approvals for Indian investments stand at about $ 1 billion since 2003, with investment inflows of $ 160 million in 2012. He underlined the vast network of air connectivity between India and Sri Lanka, with about 120 flights a week between Colombo and eight destinations in India, bringing in almost one-fifth of tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka from India. He emphasised that the container traffic of Colombo Port, which handles over 30% of the total container transhipment business of India; India-linked cargo, in turn, accounts for over three-fourths of Colombo Port’s total container transhipment volume, as a prime example of synergy in our bilateral economic relations. He noted that a Joint Task Force constituted to follow up on proposals of increasing Sri Lanka’s export capacity with Indian investment in manufacturing of products like automobile parts, engineering products and pharmaceuticals and forging linkages with production and supply chains in India, as agreed upon during visit of Minister of Commerce and Industry, met in June 2013 and also discussed ways to enhance the overall economic agenda. The High Commissioner also pointed out the ambitious target set for doubling bilateral trade to reach $ 10 billion in next three years. The High Commissioner highlighted that India’s developmental assistance projects, based on the priorities set by the Government and the people of Sri Lanka have made impressive progress. Under the Small Development Project scheme, a number of projects have been successfully completed and many more included to our growing project portfolio in all parts of Sri Lanka. These projects straddle diverse sectors such as health, education, agriculture, fishing, small and medium enterprises development, community empowerment, art, craft and culture. The High Commissioner noted that the second phase of the Indian Housing Project for 43,000 housing units under the owner-driven mode in the Northern and Eastern Provinces launched on 2 October 2012 is making rapid progress and more than 13,000 houses, in various stages of construction, are expected to be completed by the end of this year. The target of completion of all 50,000 houses will be reached before the end of 2015. Given its scale and reach, the housing project is the flagship project of India’s development assistance to Sri Lanka and is one of the largest grant assistance projects undertaken by the government of India in any part of the world. The High Commissioner also expressed happiness that the railway reconstruction project in the North, under concessional Indian lines of credit, is progressing smoothly and is expected to be completed ahead of schedule like the Southern Railway reconstruction project. He noted that the wreck removal work and dredging at the Kankesanthurai Harbour was completed in April this year and that the two sides had succeeded in resolving outstanding issues relating to Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the Sampur Project, which when implemented, will be one of the largest bilateral joint venture projects of this kind. The High Commissioner called people-to-people links one of the cardinal pillars of the special relationship between India and Sri Lanka which is rooted in close social, economic, cultural, educational and religious ties and which has matured and diversified with the passage of time. He thanked the President of Sri Lanka for releasing a special commemorative postal stamp of Swami Vivekananda in June 2013, as part of the joint commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda by the two countries.    The High Commissioner recalled the successful organization of the exposition of the Sacred Kapilavastu relics in Sri Lanka last year, for the second time in 34 years, and stated that the series of events organised by the two countries to jointly commemorate the 2600th anniversary of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhatva Jayanthi) stand testimony to the fact that “we cherished Buddhism as an important dimension of our common heritage and that it continues to be one of the common threads that bind India and Sri Lanka together”. A brief cultural programme followed, which included patriotic songs and colourful and patriotic dance performances by the students of the Indian Cultural Centre.  Subsequently, the High Commissioner 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. The celebrated Assamese actress and danseuse Madhurima Choudhury and her troupe ‘Raginee’, sponsored by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), will give a performance of folk dances and music of Assam at the Bishop’s College Auditorium in the evening. Consulate General of India, Jaffna, Consulate General of India, Hambantota and Assistant High Commission of India, Kandy also celebrated the 67th Independence Day by organising flag hoisting ceremonies.