Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday, while describing Indian-origin Tamils (IOT) as an "enduring bridge" between India and Sri Lanka, said that the Indian government is commencing some projects under the special grant package of Rs 75 crore for them, which was announced by it in July this year.
Addressing an to commemorate the 200th year of the arrival of IOTs in Sri Lanka, Sitharaman, who is on a three-day visit to the island nation, said: "In July this year, during the visit of president Ranil Wickremesinghe to India, our prime minister had announced a special grant package of Rs 75 crore for multi-faceted projects for the IOT community.
"Under this package, we have committed to undertake projects focussing on education and skill development, livelihood assistance, infrastructure development and food security. I am happy to inform that we are commencing few projects today - school bags and notebooks for students, solar lanterns for a reliable and eco-friendly power supply and stitching units for Women Self Help Groups."
She further said: "We (India) were the first bilateral creditor to convey financing assurance to the International Monetary Fund which paved the way for others to provide similar assurances that formalised the IMF program for Sri Lanka. As a true friend, India continues to work closely with the government of Sri Lanka on debt restructuring discussions as well as on its path of economic recovery.
"Our leaders have released a vision document for economic partnership in July this year outlining specific areas of cooperation for a sustainable economic development and prosperity for our people," the Finance Minister further added.
She said that the "Indian government will work closely with the Sri Lankan government in realising the vision provided by our leadership, thereby further deepening our civilisation ties with connectivity as new focus area. While some of the connectivity projects have already made progress notably the recent commencement of passenger ferry services, negotiations on Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement and UPI based digital payments, which will be launched very soon, we are working closely on other identified areas as well".
Referring to the economic support offered to Sri Lanka during its economic crisis last year by New Delhi, Sitharaman said: "When Sri Lanka faced its unprecedented economic crisis a year back, we felt its our duty to stand with our friends in Sri Lanka. We could not bear the difficulties our friends in Sri Lanka had to face. Let me confess, myself, my government, and the people of India acted collectively and came to your assistance in record time."