Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday urged the Indian business community to explore abundant opportunities in infrastructure, agri-business and services sectors in the post-conflict era.
Addressing the Business Forum organised jointly by the Indian and Sri Lankan Chambers of Commerce here to coincide with the IIFA Awards Weekend, Mr. Rajapaksa said that the new areas and sectors have opened out since the end of the conflict in May last year and local and foreign investors would find them attractive and interesting.
He maintained that the policies of his Government were vibrant and package was enticing and exciting and the Indian business community would do well in the forward march.
He told the delegates gathered on the occasion that his Government strongly believed that to bring permanent peace there must be development. “As I have often said, there is no peace without development, and no development without peace.”
Mr. Rajapaksa claimed that the world business community was now slowly but surely, acknowledging and appreciating Sri Lanka's major successes in the economic sphere, though not much reported in the media.
On Indo-Lanka ties he said that the relationship between Sri Lanka and India had been anchored in a rich heritage and was irreversible. “We are now adding new spice to our relations with India and the world, with new and varied business opportunities”.
Mr. Rajapaksa told the Forum that while military success of the Sri Lankan forces was globally well-known, what might not be as well-known to the world were the major economic successes that Sri Lanka had also recorded, over the past four years.
In support of his contention Mr. Rajapaksa said that during the four years 2005-08, Sri Lanka achieved growth rates of over 6 per cent each year and inflation was brought down from over 22 per cent in 2008 to below 4 per cent by 2009.
Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Ashok K. Kantha in his remarks said that unburdened by the distractions of war, Sri Lanka could now expect to unleash its full potential and work actively towards encashing the peace dividend.
In the India-Sri Lanka context, these developments allow us the possibility to further strengthen and deepen our bonds of friendship and to develop a more intensive and mutually rewarding partnership. “Such a partnership should logically build on the successes that have been achieved in our upgraded economic ties over the last decade”, he said.
Mr. Kantha further said that what was required was a new vision for India-Sri Lanka economic engagement where the two governments should play the role of facilitators strengthening the existing mechanisms and create new ones that provide the necessary framework for a closer economic partnership.
The High Commissioner said that the great potential for growth through bilateral cooperation was tourism and India had emerged as the largest source of tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka. Mr. Kantha said that out of a target of 2 million tourist arrivals that Sri Lanka had set for 2016, half-a-million were to come from India.
Former Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said the geographical ties between the two countries should be binding rather than dividing. “Apart from terrorism, we need to fight the terror of unemployment, poverty, climate change together,” he said.
Jyotsna Suri, Chairperson of the FICCI Tourism Council, said the tourism sector which included cross exchanges between Buddhist centres and the Ramayana trail in the two countries could be a huge draw.