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* 68th Independence Day of India celebrations in Sri Lanka
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 08:14 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Aug 15, Colombo: The High Commission of India and the Indian expatriate community in Sri Lanka celebrated the 68th Independence Day of India on Friday, 15 August 2014 at India House in Colombo.

High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha unfurled the National Flag and inspected a Guard of Honour presented by the BSF contingent. He read out excerpts from the Address to the Nation on the eve of the Independence Day by the President of India Pranab Mukherjee.

Speaking about the state of India-Sri Lanka relations, High Commissioner said that Sri Lanka has always occupied a special place in Indian hearts. Centuries-old cultural, civilizational and linguistic links had now blossomed to encompass all areas of contemporary relevance.

High-level bilateral interaction with the new Indian Government had already commenced with the visits to India by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in May to attend the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Council of Ministers, and External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, in May for bilateral talks.

India was also committed to closer economic cooperation and consolidation of the SAARC region.

The India Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA), which aims to exploit the synergies and complementarities that exist between the two countries and has led to a sharp increase in bilateral trade and investment flows, remains the cornerstone of bilateral economic and commercial ties.

"We were now looking to tap the vast potential in the services sector, thereby launching a special economic partnership."

High Commissioner noted that people-to-people and cultural links constituted one of the cardinal pillars of the India-Sri Lanka relationship, and felt that these ties would be further strengthened through India's focus on the 5 Ts - Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology, enunciated by Prime Minister Modi.

In recent years, India has been attracting a growing number of Sri Lankan students for tertiary education, as it offers a much more affordable alternative to other countries without compromising on quality.

High Commissioner also said that India is privileged to be a partner in Sri Lanka's development efforts. India's developmental cooperation projects are entirely based on the priorities set by the Government and the people of Sri Lanka. India's development cooperation projects amounted to around US$ 1.3 billion overall. The Housing project is the flagship Project in this regard, with a target to build 50,000 houses by the end of 2015. Around 14,000 houses have been completed in all respects till date, while about 20,000 houses are under various stages of completion.

High Commissioner's address was followed by a brief cultural programme organized by the Indian Cultural Centre, which included the singing of patriotic songs and dance performances by students of the Indian Cultural Centre.

Subsequently, the High Commissioner of India and other officials of the High Commission paid their respects to the memory of fallen soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in a solemn ceremony at the IPKF memorial in Colombo.

As part of the series of events being organized on the occasion of the 68th Independence Day of India, the Indian CEO Forum, in collaboration with the High Commission of India, is organizing an Independence Day Concert by the famous Indian singer, Shaan (Shantanu Mukherjee) on 17 August 2014.

Consulates General of India in Jaffna and Hambantota and the Assistant High Commission of India in Kandy also celebrated the 68th Independence Day by organizing flag hoisting ceremonies.

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