The Virtual Bilateral Summit will be Modi’s first such virtual engagement with a neighbouring country and also Rajapaksa’s first diplomatic engagement with a leader of a foreign country after he was sworn in as PM on August 9.
The Summit could provide momentum to mutual cooperation and ties which are multi-dimensional in nature and cut across spheres such as commerce, security, defence, culture, tourism etc.
Modi has maintained regular interaction with both the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Virtual Bilateral Summit is preceded by the State visits of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in November 2019 and February 2020 respectively. Since then also, leaders have kept in close touch and spoken to each other on telephone on several occasions including in the context of cooperation to tackle the health and economic impact of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the election victory of PM Rajapaksa led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), PM Modi was the first leader to congratulate Rajapaksa over telephone on 06 August 2020.
Most recently, Both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa called PM on September 17 to wish him on his birthday. Earlier on May 27, Prime Minister Modi had spoken to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to congratulate him on having completed 50 years since first entering the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
A Virtual Bilateral Summit under challenging circumstances posed by COVID-19, testifies to the deep-rooted civilizational ties and shared heritage between the two neighbouring countries. This is also a reflection of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ approach and SAGAR doctrine, according to a MEA statement.
The Virtual Bilateral Summit will give an opportunity to the two leaders to comprehensively review the broad framework of the bilateral relationship in the context of the time-tested friendly ties between the two countries and give broad political direction for a strengthened and deepened collaborative partnership on key issues of mutual interest, the statement added. There is a growing interest for Indian investments in Sri Lanka including the private sector.