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Jha highlights growing Indian power, reiterates commitment to strengthening ties with SL

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Former Presidents Maithripala Sirisena and Gotabaya Rajapaksa at India house on Friday.(Pic courtesy Indian hC)

Indian High Commissioner Santosh Jha has said India and Sri Lanka are natural partners and their interests in matters of security or development are intertwined and interlinked. “The huge potential our partnership holds and the tangible impact it can have on the lives of the common people drives me to work harder to further deepen and strengthen it. I look forward to your support and cooperation in this regard.”

HC Jha said so on Friday (26) at the evening reception hosted by him at India House on the occasion of the 75th Republic Day of India.Among those present were former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Commenting on the growing Indian economy, Jha said: Our economic journey, in particular in the last decade, has also been remarkable. India is now the fastest growing major economy in the world. We are now the fifth largest economy and poised to become the third largest by 2027-2028. That we were 10th largest 10 years ago shows the speed of this journey!

India truly stands today at an inflection point. The vision of our Prime Minister is to make India a developed country – a ‘Viksit Bharat’ or a developed India – by 2047. We believe that it is through ‘Sabka Prayas’ or through efforts of all that a ‘Viksit Bharat’ will materialize. There is realization that development, just as democracy, is of the people, for the people and by the people.

One of the many major transformations underway in India is built on the implementation of the Unique Digital Identity Number or Aadhar. This has delivered good governance and empowered the poor and the underprivileged in a way not seen before. To give you an example, the Aadhar has enabled the government to deliver food rations to 850 million, provide free medical insurance cover to 500 million and effect cash transfers to 450 million Indians. There are multiple examples of such welfare schemes reaching the poor and the most underprivileged without leakages and in full transparency. Today, India is perhaps the only low-middle income country in the world to deliver societal benefits on such scale and with such impact.

Beyond this, the Unique Digital Identity Number, along with the UPI, has also ushered a boom in digital financial transactions in India.  Today, 46 of every 100 such transactions in the world are taking place in India.  The digital public infrastructure has also led to spectacular growth of start-ups in India, with over 100,000 registered start-ups in just the last decade. And among them are over 100 Unicorns or startups with more than a billion dollar valuation.

The speed and scale of change is also noteworthy. In the last 18 months, we have installed 400,000 5G sites. Every day, in the last five years, we have opened two new colleges in India. Our physical infrastructure is acquiring world class standards. Our technological capabilities were best demonstrated when we landed the Chandrayaan-3 on the South Pole of the moon – the first by any country. Our journey on renewable energy has also been remarkable. We are on target to achieve 68.4% of our energy or 650 GW from non-fossil sources by 2032. We are also building a formidable green hydrogen capacity. Not surprisingly, we are the only G20 country that is on track to implement and even exceed its Paris Climate commitments.

Our growing national capabilities are also reflecting in our foreign policy. Our G20 presidency saw consensus on a common outcome, secured the membership for the African Union and championed the cause of the Global South.

Our domestic vision is also driving our Neighbourhood First policy. Our SAGAR policy which seeks security and growth for all in the Indian Ocean region is at the heart of our approach towards Sri Lanka.

The India-Sri Lanka partnership has been built on civilizational ties, geographical proximity, cultural connect, strong sense of solidarity and age-old goodwill. In recent years, be it during the COVID-19 pandemic or the economic crisis, India has reaffirmed itself as a trusted and reliable partner of Sri Lanka.

The Vision document adopted by our leaders in July 2023 seeks to build a stronger economic partnership with connectivity as its central theme.

Since July 2023, we have started daily flights between Jaffna and Chennai, and launched ferry services between India and Sri Lanka. We are working on building mechanisms to establish the India-Sri Lanka Connectivity Corridor.

We are also advancing multiple energy initiatives. These include the power grid connectivity eventually to enable Sri Lanka to export power to India; the multi-product pipeline, which will boost our shared interest in developing Trincomalee as an economic hub; and we are also working to set up a virtual LNG pipeline from Kochi to Colombo to bring down electricity costs in Sri Lanka. There are other clean energy projects in the private sector as well as the one by the NTPC in Sampur.

India is also Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner. In 2022, bilateral trade stood at USD 6 billion. In recent years, we have also been the largest foreign investor in Sri Lanka.  India continues to be the largest source of foreign tourists in Sri Lanka. We hope to enhance our economic partnership and enhance Sri Lanka’s export potential through early conclusion of the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement, just as the FTA opened new export opportunities for Sri Lanka to India, which now stands at more than on4 billion dollars.

Till date, we have contributed over five billion US dollars towards our development partnership, which has touched every single district of Sri Lanka.   We are working on projects for solar electrification of religious places across Sri Lanka, assisting in modernization of Sri Lanka railways, constructing houses for the poor, enhancing Sri Lanka’s health and education infrastructure, and engaging in ports and airports development. We are working on the Sri Lanka-Unique Digital Identity project and seeking to soon roll out UPI in Sri Lanka. In all of this, India’s priorities are determined by Sri Lanka’s needs and aspirations and that too principally of its citizens.”

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