India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy guides the country’s cooperation with Sri Lanka

Continuing with the age-old legacy of cooperating Sri Lanka in the knowledge field, New Delhi and Colombo have agreed to extend the existing S&T cooperation for 3 more years, with focus on new areas like waste-water technologies, biotech, sustainable agriculture, aerospace engineering, robotics, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and industrial collaboration.

This decision was arrived at the 5th India-Sri Lanka Joint Committee meeting on Science and Technology—held virtually on Thursday. At the Joint Committee on S&T, while India was represented by S K Varshney, Advisor and Head, International Cooperation, Department of Science and Technology, Sri Lanka was led by Deepa Liyange, Secretary, State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovation.

In his opening remarks, S K Varshney said, “India and Sri Lanka have a great legacy of intellectual, cultural, and religious interaction and relationship of more than 2500 years old. Trade and investment and cooperation in education and other sectors have gone up in recent times, and in this line, cooperation in S&T becomes very critical.”

He also said: This platform will provide an opportunity for discussing various other facets which are possible for collaboration in the domain of S&T. There are a lot of opportunities available for bilateral cooperation. India offers fellowships like India S&T fellowship, e-ITEC and both the countries can work through a number of multilateral platforms like BIMSTEC, which they are part of.”

On her part, Sri Lankan official Deepa Liyange reiterated the well-established bilateral relationship between both the countries and welcomed India’s cooperation in S&T sectors and research areas for boosting scientific knowledge in the country.

Participating in the Joint Committee meeting, India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Vinod K Jacob said the meeting would help build on existing collaborative work and help these reach greater heights.

He further mentioned that under the e-ITEC program, since April 2020, 550 Sri-Lankan nationals have benefitted from training in various Indian institutions in areas like biotech, medical research, renewable energy, and so on.

Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner to India, Niluka Kadurugamuwa who also joined the meeting, said, “S&T is a key enabler of socio-economic and sustainable development. The tools in science will enable the world to achieve the 2030 agenda of sustainable development, and it is high time we create a conducive environment for S&T and innovation.”

The Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner also maintained that a strong bilateral cooperation is extremely important for a country’s progress, and Sri Lanka looks forward to a fruitful joint cooperation programme.

During the meeting, both sides also reviewed the ongoing collaborative activities in the 9 areas spanning food technology; plant based medicines; meteorology; space research & applications, robotics & automation; industrial electronics, renewable energy; waste management; information and communication technology and discussed future activities.