Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday worked to strengthen Indo-Sri Lankan ties amid growing concerns of Chinese inroads into Indian Ocean nation. While calling for unity through cultural ties, the prime minister hailed the shared Buddhist heritage of the region and cautioned the international community against the growing “arc of violence”.
‘Arc of Violence’
PM Modi warned the international community against the growing “arc of violence” and said the biggest challenge to sustainable world peace is from mindsets rooted in hate and violence, and not necessarily from the conflict between the nation states.
Speaking as the chief guest at the International Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo, Modi said the ideologies of hate and their proponents in the region are closed to the notion of dialogue and hence only open to causing death and destruction.
“The menace of terrorism in our region is a concrete manifestation of this destructive emotion,” he said, apparently referring to Pakistan, which is accused of aiding and training terrorists who carry out attacks inside India.
“The biggest challenge to sustainable world peace today is not necessarily from conflict between the nation states,” he said, adding it was from the mindsets, thought streams, entities and instruments rooted in the idea of hate and violence.
PM Modi on Buddhist heritage
Making Lord Buddha and his ideals the central theme of his charming address at the inauguration of the International Vesak Day - the biggest Buddhist festival, Modi called on India and Sri Lanka to uphold those ideals and promote values of peace, inclusiveness and compassion in policies and conduct.
“Our region is blessed to have given to the world the invaluable gift of Buddha and his teachings,” he said, pointing out the significance of the “shared heritage” between the two peoples.
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Modi said he believes that “Buddhism’s message of peace is the answer to growing arc of violence all over the world.”
Lord Buddha’s message is as relevant in the 21st century as it was two and a half millennia ago, Modi told the audience which included Sri Lankan President Maithripala Srisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, diplomats, politicians and several Buddhist leaders from across the world.
He said the countries of the south, central, south-east and east Asia are proud of their Buddhist links traced to the land of Buddha.
Indo-Sri Lankan relations
Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Sri Lanka of India’s support in its nation-building efforts, saying New Delhi will be a friend and a partner, amid China’s forays into the important Indian Ocean country.
He reiterated India’s commitment to the economic prosperity of “our Sri Lankan brothers and sisters”. “We will continue to invest in driving positive change and economic growth to deepen our development cooperation.”
“You will find in India a friend and partner that will support your nation-building endeavours,” he said.
“We believe that free flow of trade, investments, technology, and ideas across our borders will be to our mutual benefit. India’s rapid growth can bring dividends for the entire region, especially in Sri Lanka,” he said.
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India and Sri Lanka are in talks to jointly operate oil tanks at the strategic Trincomalee port. A deal in this regard is yet to be announced and some workers’ union and opposition parties have protested against any such agreement with India.
Modi, however, said, “In infrastructure and connectivity, transport and energy, we are poised to scale up our cooperation.”
The prime minister stressed that the social and economic well-being of the Sri Lankan people is linked with that of 1.25 billion Indians. “Because, whether it is on land or in the waters of the Indian Ocean, the security of our societies is indivisible.”
The Chinese factor in Indo-Sri Lankan relations
PM Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka and his remarks about the Indian Ocean and security assume significance as the Chinese strive to make inroads into the island-nation. Sri Lanka is finalising a plan to lease 80 per cent of its Hambantota port to China for 99 years.
On Thursday, a top Sri Lankan defence official said that the Chinese had requested to dock its submarine at the Colombo harbour next week but the country refused it permission.
A similar visit by two Chinese submarines in 2014 had invited strong protest from India, which said it undermined its security interests.
Later addressing the Tamil workers of the Lankan tea industry, he said India will fully support “active steps” of the country to improve living conditions of Tamils of central Lanka.
He said all the people of the two countries needed to strengthen, not separate, the threads of unity and harmony.
“Diversity calls for celebration and not confrontation. Sinhala and Tamil people and languages existed harmoniously,” he said.
Modi is on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka. His trip is mainly aimed at reinforcing the traditional connect between India and Sri Lanka at a time when China is seeking to make inroads in the island nation.