Trade between India and Sri Lanka surged by more than 70 per cent in 2011 over the previous year, touching an all-time high of $5 billion, Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha has said.

Speaking at a function to mark the Republic Day at the India House here on Thursday, he said Indian companies had invested more than $100 million in Sri Lanka.

He highlighted the vast growth in India's development assistance and the growing recognition that Indian projects were being completed in a timely and efficient manner.

Referring to the memorandum of understanding signed for the construction and repair of 49,000 houses under a grant assistance of $260 million, Mr. Kantha said this was perhaps one of the largest projects of its kind undertaken by India in a foreign country.

Special train

He said the Indian Railways would launch a special train, ‘Damba Diwa Vandana,' to take Sri Lankan pilgrims from Chennai to all major Buddhist sites in India.

The train would operate from next month.

He also announced the launch of the High Commission's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/hcicolombo) to provide an interactive platform for its various activities. Mr. Kantha and other officials of the High Commission paid homage to the fallen soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) at a ceremony held at the IPKF memorial here.

To commemorate the Republic Day, danseuse Aditi Mangaldas and her troupe presented ‘Rhythm and Sound,' a contemporary Kathak performance. Sponsored by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, the troupe has already performed at Galle and Kandy and will perform in Jaffna later this week.