EAM S Jaishankar is undertaking a three-day visit to Sri Lanka

Maintaining that partnership between India and Sri Lanka has been further strengthened by the Covid-19 pandemic, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in line with ‘Neighbourhood First,’ India has supported the island country’s efforts to tackle the deadly virus through "medical assistance".

“It is also gratifying to note that Covid-19 has not been able to dent our bilateral cooperation,” EAM S Jaishankar said while speaking at a joint press conference with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena on Wednesday.

“In fact, high-level contacts were maintained and indeed strengthened during the past year and the virtual bilateral summit between our prime ministers was a high watermark for us in 2020,” he added.

“We are now looking at post-Covid assistance and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India,” he added.

Right now, India and Sri Lanka both face the post-Covid-19 challenge. It is not only a public health situation but also an economic crisis in which both sides have maintained to stay together, he said.

The EAM further stressed that Indian business is strongly interested in investing in Sri Lanka.

“We've talked about special zones for pharmaceutical manufacturing and tourism. I will ensure an early follow up from the Indian side,” he said.

India has a solid record as a development partner of Sri Lanka in the social, community, and human resources sectors.

“Whether it is in mass housing, or ambulance services, heritage services or education, our partnership has made a real difference in the lives of people over the island,” Jaishankar said.

“We stand ready to enhance Sri Lanka's capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges,” he added.

Noting that India and Sri Lanka joint working group on fisheries met recently where all outstanding issues were discussed, he said that India looks forward to the early return of our fishermen.

On his turn, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena conveyed his gratitude towards the Indian government for the tremendous support extended in the past several months to mitigate the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Indian government’s ‘Neighborhood First’ policy has made a positive impact on the health sector and economy during this period of unprecedented crisis,” he said.

“The Indian government also extended assistance to repatriate Sri Lankan pilgrims, students, and medically concerned,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister added.

He further noted that Sri Lanka is ready to work closely with India in harnessing renewable energy to drive the economies.

On the invitation of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Jaishankar is on a three-day visit to the island country.

Besides meeting the island country’s Foreign Minister, EAM Jaishankar also met Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa where both ministers reviewed the bilateral partnership. He is also expected to meet other senior leaders in Sri Lanka.