High Commission of Sri Lanka in India

Remarks by Hon S.M. Krishna at inauguration of CGI Hambantota
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 10:46

Hon'ble Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure today to be present at this seminal event. The opening of this Consulate General of India in Hambantota is reflective of India's desire to strengthen its linkages with a region of Sri Lanka with which my country shares deep historical bonds.

Religious, cultural and linguistic interface between our two countries goes back several centuries. Prince Arhat Mahinda's arrival in Anuradhapura in the 3rd century Before Christ, which heralded the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, is a story that has been told over many generations. Respected Sri Lankan scholars have drawn parallels and linkages between religious practices in Southern Sri Lankan and Southern India. Not too far from here is Dondra, which in the past housed a magnificent thousand-pillared Vishnu temple described in the Sandesaya poem of the Sinhalese poet Alagiavanna. And of course, one cannot forget that we are not too far away either from the famous Kataragama shrine, where Hindu Tamils and Sinhalese Buddhists worship the God Murugan or Skanda at the same location.

In recent years, southern Sri Lanka came to the attention because of the terrible impact of the tsunami that struck this region in 2004. On that occasion, India, which was impacted itself, was the first to come to Sri Lanka's assistance. Indian Navy ships with food, drinking water and medical attention on board were at Sri Lankan shores within 24 hours, delivering much needed succour to many affected communities who live within a few kilometers of here.

India has also taken up the reconstruction of the damaged Southern railway corridor from Galle to Matara. I am happy that the work on this railway line is proceeding on schedule.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our relations are multifaceted and historical. The challenge has been to derive the full benefit of our proximity and exploit the full potential of our friendship and cooperation. With the shadow of the conflict lifting, I believe that the time has come when we can do that.

The visit of H.E. President Rajapaksa to India in June this year opened a significant chapter in our bilateral relations. Our Prime Minister and President Rajapaksa agreed to intensify our development cooperation, revive connectivity and the age-old cultural links and enhance our economic engagement. It was further agreed that the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhatva Jayanthi) will be commemorated through joint activities.

 

The Joint Declaration of the two leaders covers every aspect of our multi-faceted relationship and has set markers for progress in the areas of connectivity, development partnership, cooperation in agriculture, power, education, human resource development and culture, greater economic engagement including through joint ventures and investment.

His Excellency the President himself has plans for developing Hambantota and its environs as a major regional hub. It is therefore, natural that when we decided to open a Consulate in the South, we have opened it in Hambantota. Given the optimism we have of the future of this region, the inauguration of the Consulate General in Hambantota is intended to build on India’s linkages with this region in the field of trade and commerce, investments, culture and tourism. I am confident that India will take advantage of the industrial and commercial potential in and around Hambantota. We would encourage our private sector to participate in Hambantota’s development by seizing the opportunities for investments. I look at our engagement with optimism and hope.

India is Sri Lanka's largest trade partner overall and Sri Lanka is one of India's largest trade partners in South Asia. The overall trade turnover grew five times within eight years since the entry into force in 2000 of our bilateral Free Trade Agreement. After a temporary dip in 2009 on account of the global recession, bilateral trade is again on the upswing and Sri Lankan exports to India have grown by over 50% since last year. India is also among the four largest overall investors in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's investments in India, too, have shown remarkable growth in recent years. Our development cooperation has increased to include in its sweep all parts of Sri Lanka.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout history, Sri Lanka and its citizens have been known, and with good reason, for their hospitality. I have every confidence that this renowned hospitality will be extended in full measure to this Consulate General and to its officers and staff as they set about their responsibilities in building and strengthening the already robust relationship between our two countries.

I would in particular like to make a special mention of the extraordinary cooperation we have already received from the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs, for which I have my colleague Minister Peiris to thank. In the coming months and years, I have no doubt that our relations will be richer as a result of the cooperation that all of you extend to the endeavours of this post and its officers and staff.

Thank you.

Hambantota
November 28, 2010

 

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