Sri Lanka has central place in India’s neighbourhood first and SAGAR policies: Jaishankar

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Colombo, Jan 6 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that Sri Lanka has a central place in India’s neighbourhood first and SAGAR policies as he met with the country’s top leadership and discussed further strengthening the close cooperation in many key areas.

Jaishankar called on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and discussed further strengthening the close cooperation in so many areas, following up on the progress made since the virtual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.

He said on Twitter that “Sri Lanka has a central place in our #NeighbourhoodFirst and #SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) policies”.

“Thank Prime Minister @PresRajapaksa for his warm welcome this evening. Discussed further strengthening our close cooperation in so many areas, following up on the progress made since the Virtual Summit with PM @narendramodi,” the minister said after his meeting with Mahinda.

Jaishankar, who earlier called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said he conveyed warm greetings from Prime Minister Modi and discussed cooperation for post-Covid health and economic recovery.

'India will be a reliable partner in Sri Lanka's development,' he tweeted.

Gotabaya said he and Jaishankar discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties.

'Strengthening bilateral relationship between #SriLanka & #India through post #COVID19 economy development, health care, power generation etc. were discussed thoroughly,' the president tweeted.

Addressing a joint media briefing here with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena, Jaishankar also said that the coronavirus pandemic has not been able to dent the bilateral ties and that the two countries are now looking at post-COVID cooperation.

'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 a high watermark for us in 2020,' he said.

Jaishankar told reporters that reflecting its 'Neighbourhood First' policy, India has supported Sri Lanka’s efforts to tackle COVID through timely medical assistance.

'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.

Jaishankar and his Sri Lankan counterpart Gunawardena also held bilateral talks on a range of bilateral topics.

Gunawardena conveyed his government's profound gratitude to Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government for the tremendous support India extended in the past several months to mitigate the adverse impact of the COVID pandemic.

'India's Neighbourhood First Policy has made a positive impact on the health sector and economy during this period of unprecedented crisis,” he said. PTI CPS AKJ CPS