Forward looking engagement
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's official visit to India
has resulted in the relations between the two countries reaching
a higher level. As emphasized in the joint declaration issued
following the visit the shared cultural and civilizational
heritage and shared values and principles of democracy have laid
the foundation for a forward looking partnership between the two
neighbouring states. It is a relationship encompassing all areas
of relevance including trade, services, investment and
integration of the economies and certain institutions of the two
Sri Lanka has been quite conscious of the geo-political
realities of the South Asian region and the world at large. It
is a fact that India, our closest neighbour and friend, is the
colossus of the sub-continent. That is why Sri Lanka has always
kept India informed of developments in the country and exchanged
bilateral visits in a highest level regularly. This policy has
paid dividends and contributed to the consistent positive
development of the relations between our two countries.
We could recall here that it has been India that came to our
assistance first in times of need. The arrival of Indian aid in
the shores of Sri Lanka even before the tidal tsunami waves
receded in December 2004 is a case in point.
In the sphere of trade our two countries were the first to
sign a free trade arrangement in South Asia. Over the years this
arrangement has been a win-win situation for both countries.
This is despite the asymmetric nature of the size of our two
countries and two economies.
Entry to the vast Indian market is a boon for our
industrialists and trade. In the field of technology Sri Lanka
could benefit much from cooperation with India. In this regard,
the launch of the India- Sri Lanka Knowledge Initiative is a
welcome development. The same goes for the proposed
establishment of an agricultural research institute with Indian
aid in the North.
Indian assistance has not been confined to the North and
East. It has already established a centre of excellence for the
training of teachers to teach English as a second language. The
upgrading of the Colombo-Matara rail track is proceeding
In the sphere of knowledge, the decision to launch the
India-Sri Lanka Knowledge Initiative has been most timely. India
is a super-power in the field of ICT. Its R&D industry is quite
substantial. Sri Lanka could certainly benefit from access to
the wide-ranging knowledge that is developing there.
Another beneficial effect of the visit is the decision to
restart the Colombo - Tuticoran and Talaimannar - Rameswaram
ferry services. This would give a boost to people to people
contact between the two countries and would be a boon to local
pilgrims visiting India.
The joint declaration shows that there is also a clear
understanding on the Indian side on the efforts made by Sri
Lanka to resettle the IDPs in record time and the attempts that
are being taken to arrive at national reconciliation. The Sri
Lankan President has kept India informed on its decision to
arrive at a peaceful solution to the National question with the
agreement of all stake holders.
On the whole, the visit has been fruitful. One could
confidentially predict further enhancing of the relations
between the two countries.
The old and the feeble
Caring the old and the feeble has been an age old
custom of Sri Lankans. It is part of the upbringing of almost
every Sri Lankan. However, in the hurly burly life of modern
times customs too have waned for few seem to care for the old.
This is most conspicuous on the roads or in public transport.
The old and the feeble often keep standing in passenger
transport for hardly any sturdy youth would offer them a seat.
The latter would pretend to look through the window until their
necks get strained or the disturbing element of the feeble
personality gets off. Perhaps one could not expect anything else
in a society that is built on the premise might is right and the
One wonders whether this is the generation that would take us
to the knowledge society of the twenty-first Century. May be the
authorities that vouch to build a just and morally rich society
could spend a little time to inculcate the habit of respecting
and caring for the old and the feeble among the young population
Now that tuition has been banned on Sundays and Poya days the
task would be easier!