- Tourism and biz travel among multiple proposals discussed with Indian External Affairs Minister
- Others include establishing a bilateral business forum, greater utilisation and expansion of trade agreements
- Plus mutual arrangement on standards and Indian socioeconomic investments
- India keen on pharmaceuticals, IT, vocational training, and skill development
Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar
The early resumption of tourism was among a slew of proposals to improve Indo-Lanka economic engagement that were discussed between top Sri Lankan captains of industry and the Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar this week.
Dr. Jaishankar, during a three-day visit on Thursday, interacted with captains of Sri Lankan business and industry that represented prominent business conglomerates and manufacturing entities in the country, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a statement yesterday.
The invitees were MAS Holdings Chairman Mahesh Amalean, John Keells Holdings Chairman and CEO Krishan Balendra, SLTDA Chairperson Kimarli Fernando, Indian CEO Forum President Umesh Gautam, Sunshine Holdings Group MD Vish Govindasamy, Brandix Lanka Group CEO Ashroff Omar, Hayleys Chairman Mohan Pandithage, and Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya.
There was a comprehensive exchange of views on a broad array of issues including the development of a stronger economic partnership between India and Sri Lanka, especially in context of jointly overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The business leaders appreciated bilateral initiatives aimed at reviving economic growth in Sri Lanka and conveyed their desire to work closely for reinforcing India-Sri Lanka trade and business ties. There was considerable interest regarding early-resumption of tourist travel from India and cooperation on vaccines for COVID-19.
External Affairs Minister also noted that the cessation of tourism had impacted nearly 15% of Sri Lanka’s population which has direct or indirect links with the tourism sector. He mentioned India’s successful ‘air-travel bubble’ arrangements with more than 20 countries, which had helped in partial restoration of travel and mitigated some of the difficulties faced by people and our economies.
Recalling that India was the largest source of tourists for Sri Lanka last year, he noted the potential for enhancing tourism between India and Sri Lanka in view of proximity and cultural similarities between the two countries.
“Certain other ideas put forward by business leaders included the establishment of a bilateral forum to discuss business-related issues, greater utilisation of the Indo-Sri Lanka free trade agreement and the possibility of an expanded FTA between the two sides, conclusion of a mutual recognition arrangement on standards, air-bubble arrangement for business travel, and the possibility of Indian investments in the socio-economic domain in Sri Lanka that would help in boosting local employment,” the statement said.
The invitees also briefed the Minister of External Affairs regarding their business linkages with India and expressed hope for overall expansion and strengthening of the bilateral economic partnership for mutual benefit. It was also felt that India could play an important role in supporting manufacturing in Sri Lanka through technology, training, and investments.
In his remarks, External Affairs Minister appreciated the inputs provided by Sri Lankan business and mentioned that he would bring them to the attention of relevant ministers on the Indian side. He also mentioned that India would like to expand its engagement with the Sri Lankan economy and referred to certain promising areas such as pharmaceuticals, IT, vocational training, skill development, among others, in this regard.
External Affairs Minister also expressed confidence that neighbourhood will be the priority region for India when it starts sharing COVID-19 vaccines internationally. He also briefed the participants about efforts in India related to various aspects of development, manufacturing and logistics for administering COVID-19 vaccines in India.
External Affairs Minister pointed out the need to encourage and support initiatives for attracting mutually beneficial investment from India. He added that collaborations can flourish in an environment conducive for business.
Speaking about the improving performance of the Indian economy, the External Affairs Minister mentioned various initiatives taken by the Indian government, such as performance linked incentives and measures to enhance India’s standing in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings. He also mentioned that the economic recovery in India in the third Quarter of Financial Year 2020-21 has been better than anticipated, and close linkages between Indian and Sri Lankan economies will ensure that this will positively impact Sri Lanka’s economy as well as recovery.