Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena (R) with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar after addressing a joint media briefing in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Wednesday. (PTI)
ASSERTING that the coronavirus pandemic has not been able to dent the bilateral relationship between India and Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday that the two countries are now looking at post-COVID cooperation. Speaking at a joint media briefing with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena, Jaishankar said, the pandemic has given the two sides an opportunity to collaborate even further.
“It (COVID) hasn’t been able to dent our bilateral cooperation. In fact, high level contacts were maintained and indeed strengthened during the past year and the virtual summit between our Prime Ministers was the watermark of our relationship in 2020,” he said. Jaishankar is visiting Colombo over three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa held the virtual summit in September during which the two sides agreed to further expand ties in a range of areas such as anti-terror cooperation, maritime security and trade and investment.
“We are now looking at post-COVID cooperation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India,” said Jaishankar, who is here on a three-day visit - his first foreign trip of the year. This is also the first by a foreign dignitary to Sri Lanka in the new year. Sri Lankan leadership formally requested Indian assistance to obtain the COVID vaccine during meetings with Jaishankar in Colombo. Jaishankar underlined that both the neighbours are now facing immediate challenges of post-COVID recovery. “This is not just a public health issue but also a crisis of the economy,” he said. Assuring that India will be a “dependable and reliable partner” of Lanka, Jaishankar said, the country is open to strengthening its relationship with the island nation on the basis of “mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual sensitivity”.