Colombo [Sri Lanka], January 6 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that COVID-19 has not dented the bilateral cooperation between India and Sri Lanka and given an opportunity to work even more closely together.
Addressing a joint press conference with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena, Jaishankar said India stands ready "to enhance Sri Lanka's capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges".
"I believe COVID has given us an opportunity to work even more closely together. It has not dented our bilateral cooperation. The virtual summit between our prime ministers was the watermark of our relationship last year," he said.
Jaishankar, who is on a three-day visit to Sri Lanka, also called on Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and conveyed warm greetings from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Discussed cooperation for post-Covid health and economic recovery. India will be a reliable partner in Sri Lanka's development," he said in a tweet.
He also thanked the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister for his invitation and hospitality.
"Appropriate that Sri Lanka is my first visit in 2021. Reviewed our cooperation and will work closely to fulfil the vision of our leaders," he said in another tweet.
In his remarks at the press conference, Jaishankar said India stands ready "to enhance Sri Lanka's capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges".
He said India is looking forward to the early return of its fishermen detained in Lanka.
"India and Sri Lanka joint working group on fisheries met recently where all outstanding issues were discussed. We look forward to the early return of our fishermen."
The minister also said that Indian businesses are very keenly interested to invest in Sri Lanka. "We have talked about special zones for pharmaceutical manufacturing and tourism."
This is the first foreign visit by Jaishankar in 2021, and also the first by a foreign dignitary to Sri Lanka in the new year.
Gunawardena expressed gratitude to the Indian government for extending support in the past several months to mitigate the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"India's neighborhood first policy has made a positive impact on the health sector and economy during this period of unprecedented crisis," he said. (ANI)