9th Annual General Meeting of the Indo-Lanka Chamber of Commerce & Industry:
Address by High Commissioner of India
H.E. Taranjit Singh Sandhu
[Colombo: 6 July 2017]

It is a pleasure to be here, at the 9th Annual General Meeting of the Indo-Lanka Chamber of Commerce & Industry. IL CCI is unique – the only joint business Chamber of Sri Lanka & India in Colombo!

I was keen to be here with all of you, and I very much appreciate, the adjustment you made, in rescheduling this event.

IL CCI was built by friends of both India and Sri Lanka, under the aegis of, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, more than a decade ago. I am happy to note that your efforts, to deepen and strengthen economic partnership, between our great countries, have indeed borne fruits.

Economic relations, have become an important element, in any bilateral relations today. However old, the ties are, however strong, the civilizational links are, to use Prime Minister Modi’s terminology, in his address to Ceylon Chambers, in March 2015, “economic cooperation, is often the locomotive, that gives it momentum”. I consider the business chambers, as the wheels of the locomotive.

You channelize and catalyse, economic and commercial ties. You create opportunities. As a wise man said, opportunities do not happen; they are created.

Perceptions matter in everyday life; however, it matters the most in business. Your perceptions about the economy, can have powerful impact, on the economy itself. Your paint-brush, can colour others’ vision. This also means, that you have a huge responsibility.

You are not just, a collection of Indian and Sri Lankan companies. You are one among those few groups, who knows India and Sri Lanka equally well. You have seen and experienced both, yourself. I consider your ground knowledge, as an important tool, to bridge asymmetry of information.

I am glad, that a delegation from Indo-Lanka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, visited Mumbai to take part in, the Make in India Week last year. We would be happy to facilitate, more such visits.

As Government, our aim is to create, tangible and sustainable opportunities, for the benefit of the people, in both countries. We need to, look ahead. We need to, dream high. What we can achieve together, is limited only, by our collective imagination.

The winds of reforms, are sweeping across India. The impact of the reforms, has made India, a land of limitless possibilities, and endless opportunities. The launch of Goods and Services Tax, from 1 July, is a milestone, in the economic history of India. The creation of One Nation; One Market; One Tax, is expected to generate, several positive externalities. Economists are predicting, an addition of 2% growth, in India’s GDP, from the roll out of GST.

Skill, scale and speed, have become the new mantra. Several thousands of processes, and procedures, have been revised, with an aim to facilitate, genuine business. We are aware that, we have to do much more, and we are, in the process. Your feedback, on what more could be done, is important for us.

India is a big country; therefore nothing is enough, when it comes to development. But, that is our strength, and your opportunity. Size of the Indian market, should not scare anyone, or act as a deterrent. Our size is a big opportunity-it creates, enough space for everyone. India’s growth is not, in the interest of India alone. As my PM has said, our friends and partners, especially our neighbours, have the first claim, on the fruits of India’s growth. Sabka sath, Sabka vikas, captures this vision.  Together, we progress.

Sri Lanka has also started its journey, with renewed vigour, in meeting the developmental aspirations, of its people. We want to make this journey, faster and easier. In doing so, we want to ensure, that the journey is, as important, as destination itself.

We are at a very special moment, in the history of India-Sri Lanka bilateral ties. The frequency of summits, and high-level meetings, has in a way, been unprecedented.

We note with deep appreciation, that President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, visited India, for their first overseas trip.  In March 2015, Prime Minister Modi, made a landmark visit to Sri Lanka, which happened after 28 years. In less than two years, in May 2017, our Prime Minister made a stand-alone visit, to Sri Lanka as the Chief Guest, at the UN International Vesak Day celebrations, which Sri Lanka, had the privilege of hosting, for the first time.

We are happy that, we have been able to achieve concrete outcomes, from these high-level visits. We signed an MoU for cooperation, in joint economic projects, during the visit of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to India, in April this year. The MoU identifies, specific projects in sectors, such as energy, power, roads, ports, railways etc. We are closely working, with Sri Lankan authorities, for timely implementation of these projects.

Our development partnership with Sri Lanka, currently stands at, US $ 2.6 billion. We are ready to strengthen, our development partnership further, based on Sri Lanka’s needs.

We intend to make, substantial investments in Sri Lanka, in conventional, and non-conventional energy, in the days ahead. Considering that LNG, is a cheaper and cleaner fuel, we are sharing our expertise, and skillset, with Sri Lanka, to facilitate the process of gasification, of the Sri Lankan economy. We also see, huge potential in Sri Lanka, for wind and solar energy, as well. India has made rapid advance in solar technology and we are ready to share it with Sri Lanka.

We have also identified, hard infrastructure and connectivity projects, in Sri Lanka, including roads, railways, ports etc. for joint development.

Certain sections, who may not be very well informed, unfortunately, have been trying to portray, that Sri Lankan interests would be harmed, when some of these projects, take off. Nothing could be further, from truth. These are, JOINT projects. These projects bring huge investments, and valuable foreign exchange, for Sri Lanka. They create several thousands, of direct and indirect jobs. These projects, only bring benefits, to Sri Lanka. You are, practical and pragmatic. We would like you to project, the right message, in your interactions.

When India and Sri Lanka, entered into an FTA in 2000, it was a first, for both countries. Total bilateral trade has increased 8 times since then. Share of FTA items in Sri Lanka’s exports to India increased from 16% in 2000 to more than 65% in recent years. Majority of Sri Lanka’s exports to India are through FTA.

On the other hand, share of FTA items in India’s exports to Sri Lanka increased from 9% in 2000 to just 13% in recent years. Majority of India’s exports to Sri Lanka are outside the FTA. The facts and figures show FTA has indeed, been beneficial to Sri Lanka.

There are several Sri Lankan companies, who have crafted their own success stories, by becoming part of global supply, and value chains. We need to create, more such stories.

We have been working, towards expanding the contours, of the FTA to cover, investments and services. The proposed Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement is in mutual interest. However, I would like to reiterate that we are ready to move at a pace Sri Lanka is comfortable with.

On what Sri Lanka means to India, we are happy, that Sri Lankan Airlines, is currently the largest foreign carrier, to India. India also contributes, significantly towards Sri Lankan tourism, with an estimated 400,000 Indians visiting Sri Lanka annually. Sri Lanka has been providing MRO services, to Indian airline companies. Similarly, Colombo Dockyard have been supplying vessels to India, and have also been actively engaged, in ship repair business with India. More than 70% of Colombo Port transshipment, is India-related, an important lifeline for Colombo port. I could go on and on.

Where do we go from here? What more could we do together?

First, I would urge you, as individuals, as firms and as Chambers, to not only, promote connectivity between India and Sri Lanka, but also, to make use of it, yourself. Your participation in business, and investor-meets in India, would help to understand, the changed realities; it would also provide opportunities, to make new contacts.

Secondly, as Chambers, you have a crucial role to play, in disseminating right information. If there is an opportunity coming up, pls. pass it on. You also need to put, things in perspective. The High Commission has started a monthly High Impact Economic News, highlighting important economic policy decisions and developments in India. We will request the Chamber to share it with its members.

Last but not the least, if there are positive stories-let the world know. If there are, not so positive stories, and you are into difficulty, let us know. We will be happy, to provide all support, to resolve it.

We at the High Commission, will do all, we can, to strengthen, the pillars of co-operation, between our two great nations. India is ready to partner Sri Lanka, in its important journey of development, and share experience, expertise and technology!

I wish you the very best, in all your future endeavours.

Thank you!

Information Wing,
High Commission of India,
No.36-38, Galle Road,