Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual bilateral summit with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday. During the summit, PM Modi told the Sri Lankan PM that under the country’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India “gives special priority to relations between the two countries.”
“The relations between India and Sri Lanka are thousands of years old. According to my government’s neighbourhood first policy and SAGAR doctrine, we give special priority to relations between the two countries,” said PM Modi.
Rajapaksa expressed gratitude for India’s work for other countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The operation to douse off the fire on MT New Diamond ship provided an opportunity for greater cooperation between the two countries,” Rajapaksa said.
A Greek-owned oil tanker caught fire in Sri Lanka’s eastern coast on September 3. Indian navy and the coast guards helped in carrying out rescue efforts and sent firefighting chemicals to the neighbouring country.
The virtual bilateral summit is preceded by the state visits of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Rajapaksa to India in November 2019 and February 2020, respectively. Since then, leaders have kept in close touch and spoken to each other on the telephone on several occasions including in the context of cooperation to tackle the health and economic impact of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
In April this year, India sent 10-tonne consignment of essential medicines, including hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol to Sri Lanka.
On Friday, India offered a Line of Credit worth USD 100 million to Sri Lanka for three solar projects, according to an official statement by the Indian Mission.
This is PM Rajapaksa’s first diplomatic engagement with a leader of a foreign country after he was sworn in as the Prime Minister on August 9, 2020.