Even as Sri Lanka is witnessing its worst economic downturn in decades, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla is on a 4-day visit to the island nation (02-05 October) to review bilateral ties, progress of ongoing bilateral projects and ongoing cooperation to tackle Covid related disruptions.
On the 3rd of October, the first full day of his visit, the Foreign Secretary visited the northern province of Jaffna where he reviewed the progress on the development and rehabilitation of the Palaly airport. The project is important for the socio-economic welfare of the Tamil dominated northern province.
Earlier in the day the Foreign Secretary also visited the Oil Tank Farms in Triconmalee where according to the Indian High Commission “Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) briefed him about the development undertaken at the Lower Tank Farms and the possibilities for further strengthening India-SL energy partnership and enhance SL’s energy security.” His visit to the site assumes significance as oil sector trade unions in Sri Lanka have demanded that tanks be brought under the control of the state fuel entity Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).
Ending the day at the iconic Jaffna cultural center, the Foreign Secretary appreciated the state of the art cultural center which was built with Indian grant assistance to help the people of the region reconnect with their roots and share cultural heritage with India.
High-level engagements are scheduled in Colombo for the 4th of October as per the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, Foreign Secretary Shringla will call on Sri Lankan President Gatobaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister GL Peiris. In addition, he would receive a delegation of the main Tamil political party, Tamil National Alliance for discussions.
The visit by the Foreign Secretary is set to provide an opportunity for the two countries to review their bilateral ties and the progress of several projects. The two neighbors have also decided to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic together and help each other in whichever way possible. Earlier this year, India supplied COVID-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka under the Neighborhood First policy as well as shiploads of emergency medical oxygen to combat sudden spikes in infections.