JAFFNA: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured Sri Lanka that India’s development assistance to the island nation will be based on the latter’s priorities and needs.
“That Indian assistance to Lanka will be based your priorities and your needs is an assurance that you can rely on,” Modi told Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena while they jointly inaugurated the renovated Duraiappah stadium through video conferencing here on Saturday. “This is what makes our enduring ties relevant to our present, as also to our future,” Modi asserted.
Modi’s statement is significant because it comes in the wake of heavy criticism in Lanka of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s bid to enter into an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India. And following opposition from the environmentalist lobby, Sirisena had to request Modi to give up the plan to build a coal fired 500 MW power plant at Sampoor. Sirisena wants the plant to be run by LNG. Modi had told him that Indian officials will consider the request.
Symbolism Of Stadium Renovation
Drawing attention to the deep symbolism contained in the reactivation of the iconic Duraiappah stadium with an Indian grant of Rs.145 million, the Indian PM said: “ The Duraiappah stadium is not just brick and mortar. It is a symbol of optimism and economic development. It is an arena for a prosperous and healthy future for Jaffna’s youth. It demonstrates your determination to shed the legacy of violence and pursue the path of economic progress. Its successful completion is a signal that you have left the past behind and are looking to the promise of a prosperous future.”
Elaborating India’ wishes visa-a-vis Lanka, the Indian PM said: “ India’s desire is to see an economically prosperous Sri Lanka. A Sri Lanka where: unity and integrity; peace, harmony and security; and equal opportunity and dignity prevails throughout the country among all its people.” “India strongly believes that its economic growth must drive and bring benefit to its neighbors. The Duraiappah Stadium embodies the spirit of our cooperation.”
In his address, Lankan President Sirisena said that India’s strong relations with Lanka has helped the latter get international support. Many people criticize India-Lankan relations, but he will go along the path of cooperation and friendship with India despite the criticisms, the Lankan leader said.
Sirisena described the renovated Duraiappah stadium as a symbol of reconciliation, symbolic of turning away from a past of violence, given the fact that Alfred Duraiappah, a Mayor of Jaffna, was killed by Tamil militants.
Over 5,000 students from various parts of the Northern Province gave an impressive display of Surya Namaskar and other yoga asanas prior to the inauguration of the stadium as the International Yoga Day was observed in Jaffna on Saturday.