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India aims for enhanced trilateral cooperation with Japan and Lanka

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Puneet Agrawal, Joint Secretary of the Indian Ocean Region in the Ministry of External Affairs, at an event in Delhi Photograph:(WION)

India is hoping to strengthen trilateral cooperation with Japan and Sri Lanka, focusing on new avenues of collaboration while jointly working on debt restructuring for Colombo.

Speaking at the India-Sri Lanka-Japan Trilateral Cooperation Event, co-hosted by NatStrat, VIF, Pathfinder, and CII, Puneet Agrawal in New Delhi, Joint Secretary of the Indian Ocean Region in the Ministry of External Affairs, highlighted the shared interests and potential for synergistic partnerships among the three nations.

Agrawal, who is the key person in handling all matters relating to Comoros, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Indian Ocean Region in India’s foreign ministry, expressed optimism about the prospects of joint endeavours despite past challenges.

“Some projects in Sri Lanka which were to be executed jointly by India and Japan did not progress due to several reasons, but that should not deter us in exploring new cooperation,” he affirmed.  In the past, both Delhi and Tokyo burnt fingers after a tripartite deal with Colombo was scrapped for the development of Colombo Port’s eastern container terminal in 2021.

The diplomat emphasised that India and Japan, as reliable partners, could collectively contribute more than the sum of their parts, leveraging their strengths in areas such as locational advantage, economic opportunities, technical advancement, manufacturing, and industrial expansion.

The trilateral cooperation, aimed at enhancing the Indo-Pacific region’s development, has become increasingly relevant as all three countries share a vision of an open, free, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

Addressing Sri Lanka’s need for trustworthy partners to support its economic revival, Agrawal stated, “India and Japan bring in investments that are transparent and process-oriented.”

He underscored the importance of connectivity in this process, encompassing maritime connectivity, energy and power trade, financial and digital connectivity, and people engagement.

Regarding digital connectivity, India’s advanced IT sector is set to foster economic growth in Sri Lanka, he said.

“This will not only boost e-commerce and financial inclusion but also empower Sri Lanka’s youth with skills for the Digital Age,” Agrawal added.

An agreement between NPCI International and Lanka Pay on UPI-based digital payments is poised to revolutionise the financial landscape, enhancing tourism and public infrastructure.

In addition to economic collaboration, cultural ties between India and Sri Lanka were highlighted as pivotal in fostering regional solidarity.

“Promotion of the Buddhist circuit and the Ramayana trail, exchange programs between educational institutions, scholarships, and cultural events have not only strengthened the bonds between our nations but also promoted a sense of regional solidarity,” the Indian diplomat noted. (WION)

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