High Commissioner Gopal Baglay held two separate meetings with Hon’ble Vidura Wickramanayaka, Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs, on the implementation of USD 15 million grant by Government of India for the promotion of Buddhist ties and the functioning of Jaffna Cultural Center (JCC) on 1 November 2022 in Colombo. Secretary, Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs Mr. Somarathna Vidanapathirana, First Secretary (Development Cooperation), Mr. Eldos Mathew Punnoose, and other officials representing the governments of India and Sri Lanka attended these meetings.
2. It may be recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a special grant of USD 15 million for the promotion of bilateral Buddhist ties at the Virtual Bilateral Summit on 26 September 2020 and the MOU governing the grant was signed on 28 March 2022, during the visit of External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar to Colombo.
3. High Commissioner and Hon’ble Minister Wickramanayaka agreed to immediately undertake steps for the quick implementation of jointly-identified priority projects under the grant in numerous areas pertaining to Buddhism. Specific action points regarding installation of solar power facilities in places of worship and Pirivenas, spread across different parts of Sri Lanka were also identified.
4. The meeting on JCC focused on the establishment of an enabling joint-framework to make the state-of-the-art facility available for regular use by common public. This glowing example of India-Sri Lanka development partnership, which has been constructed under a Government of India grant of more than USD 11 million, consists of multiple facilities such as a museum of two floors, a latest theatre style auditorium for more than 600 people, a 11-storeyed learning tower, and a public square which could also act as an amphitheater, among others.
5. The two meetings underscore the Government of India’s abiding commitment to bring about a palpable impact to the daily lives of the people of Sri Lanka through the implementation of people-centric grant projects. These projects are guided by the demands and needs of all sections of Sri Lankan society and the priorities of the Government of Sri Lanka. Till date, India has been associated with the implementation of more than 85 grant projects in Sri Lanka, and the latest endeavours include the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity Project.