Sri Lanka has the potential to be India’s strongest economic partner in this region, asserted visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a special speech to a packed audience comprising of the Indian and Sri Lankan private sector in Colombo on Friday. He opened by remarking that “no matter how far back our relationship dates, it is continued economic cooperation that will be the locomotive that drives this forward”.
His brief speech covered all the key areas of Indo-Lanka economic relations, including a committment to expand bilateral trade while ensuring concerns of Sri Lankan stakeholders are addressed; making stronger efforts to ease trade barriers; helping to overcome the large trade imbalance; and cooperating on mutually beneficial ‘ocean economy’ initiatives. He wished for both countries to be “more open to each other” and enhance travel and tourism connectivity. The new direct flights between the two capitals to be launched by Air India shortly, together with the visa on arrival facility for Sri Lankans travelling to India, both agreements inked during this visit, will no doubt go a long way in achieving this enhanced connectivity. Interestingly, he didn’t mention “CEPA” anywhere in his speech, although he alluded to cooperation on all the areas that usually make up a Comprehensive Economic Partnership – trade, investment, ideas, people.
I managed to make an audio recording of his full speech (except for about a minute at the very beginning).
(image courtesy Indian Press Informatjon Bureau http://pib.nic.in/)