India has allocated a ”landmark” grant of USD 15 million to Sri Lanka to bolster the long-standing Buddhist connections between the two nations, officials here said on Friday.
The bilateral agreement on the grant was signed on Thursday at the President’s House in Colombo in the presence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her three-day visit to the island nation.
The first project to be initiated under the USD 15 million grant is the solar electrification of religious sites across Sri Lanka, with an allocation of USD 10 million, the President’s Media Division of Sri Lanka said in a statement.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for this significant project was jointly finalised by the governments of India and Sri Lanka, it said.
The ”landmark USD 15 million grant” strengthened Buddhist ties between India and Sri Lanka, the statement said.
”This grant is specifically allocated to bolster the longstanding Buddhist connections between India and Sri Lanka, underscoring the deep historical and cultural ties that bind these two nations together,” it said.
Wickremesinghe and Sitaraman engaged in ”lengthy bilateral discussions” during the bilateral agreement signing event, the statement said.
Noting that the grant underscores the significance of strengthening Buddhist linkages between India and Sri Lanka, the President’s Media Division said that the fund would be allocated towards various initiatives, including the construction and renovation of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchange, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exhibition of relics and other areas of mutual interest.
In recognition of the evolving economic landscape in Sri Lanka, both countries have agreed to recalibrate the grant amount from Sri Lankan Rupees to Indian Rupees, aligning it with the prevailing market conditions, it said.
”This adjustment is being formalised through diplomatic Letters of Exchange and Acceptance, signifying a shared commitment to further enhancing these ties,” the statement said.
High Commissioner of India, Gopal Baglay and Secretary of the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, Somaratne Vidanapathirana, played pivotal roles in exchanging these documents, it said.
During her visit to Sri Lanka, Sitharaman also called on the powerful Buddhist clergy in the central town of Kandy. Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation.
She also met Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and leaders of the Indian-origin plantation community.
Sitharaman was in the island nation to participate as the Guest of Honour in ‘NAAM 200’, organised by the Government of Sri Lanka on Thursday, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Indian-origin Tamils to the island nation.