A ceremony to start the Mount Lavinia to Kankesanthurai Intercity service using recently received Full AC Diesel Multiple Units (AC DMUs) from India under the Indian loan facility was held on Sunday.
Sri Lankan Minister of Transport Pavithra Wanniarachchi was the Chief Guest. Indian Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Vinod K. Jacob received the Minister of Transport at Colombo Fort Station.
During his conversation with the Minister of Transport, Deputy High Commissioner Jacob recalled the priority placed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on ties with Sri Lanka in line with the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. He said that the recent statement of External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar that India would support Sri Lanka in difficult times was an affirmation of the Neighbourhood First policy in the current context. He also reiterated High Commissioner Gopal Baglay’s emphasis on mutually beneficial cooperation that facilitates people to people exchanges.
The Minister of Transport then thanked the Government of India for its steadfast support to Sri Lanka over the years, including during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy High Commissioner Jacob responded that during the current year, India would be keen to upgrade bilateral engagement. He said that Government of India would be celebrating this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (9 January) with special focus on the youth. In this regard Deputy High Commissioner recalled the visits of Mahatma Gandhi to Sri Lanka, including the seminal speech at Ananda College.
Supplied by RITES under an Indian Line of Credit, these AC DMUs will help facilitate quicker travel between the Western and Northern Province. The supply of AC DMUs is just one of the many railway projects being undertaken by India in Sri Lanka. There are also other ongoing projects, which include supply of passenger coaches by RITES under an Indian Line of Credit. RITES has already supplied 120 of the 160 coaches under this project. Another Indian Company, IRCON is executing a project for upgrading of railway tracks between Maho-Anuradhapura-Omanthai.
India’s total development portfolio in Sri Lanka is over $ 3.5 billion, of which around $ 570 million is purely grant projects. Modernisation of railways and creation of new railway infrastructure have been important sectors of focus under the Indian Government’s development portfolio in Sri Lanka, in line with the priority of the Government and people of Sri Lanka.