Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Roundtable with Leaders of Banking and Financial sectors




Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Roundtable on financing of

Innovations with Leaders of Banking and Financial sectors

Shri Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Finance;


Shri Rajiv Mehrishi, Finance Secretary and Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs;

Dr. Hasmukh Adhia, Secretary, Department of Financial Services;

Shri Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, NABARD;

Prof. Anil Gupta, Vice Chairman, National Innovation Foundation;

Leaders from banking and financial sectors;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

1. It is my pleasure to attend this concluding session of the Festival of Innovations. To begin

with, I thank NABARD for taking the initiative to organize a Round-table on “financing of innovations”

with leaders of the banking and financial sectors. It is heartening to see the enthusiastic participation of

many leading banks and financial institutions in today’s forum.

2. The high growth that we have envisaged is possible only with productivity improvements

across all sectors of the economy. Innovations in different segments, at different levels and for

different sections will aid this process in no small measure. The course of development of innovation

involves the conversion of a novel idea into a viable product. Financing of innovation, being a critical

step, the role of the banking system is paramount in the entire innovation value-chain.

3. A nation which performs high on innovation has, among other factors, a buoyant and

supportive financial sector to leverage innovations. In India unfortunately, there are many instances of

innovations that are languishing for want of financial support. There is an urgent need to deliberate on

the strategy required for changing the climate of cooperation between innovators, investors and

entrepreneurs. I am told that this week-long festival was marked by fruitful interactions between

grassroots innovators and various stakeholders of the innovation eco-system, both within and outside

the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

4. The government has taken several initiatives to encourage innovations and start-ups that

will help generate jobs and overcome poverty. Under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, the

banking sector - primarily the public sector banks - successfully embarked upon an ambitious drive to

provide access to the weaker and poorer sections to a bank account and other financial products.

Within a span of six months, the coverage under the scheme has been close to hundred percent, with a

record 13.2 crore new bank accounts opened, 11.5 crore RuPay debit cards issued, and over Rs. 11,000

crore deposited.

5. Despite the achievements, there are challenges to overcome still. Only a small number of

those who open accounts have access to credit for improving their livelihood opportunities. In

particular, I would like to draw your attention to the financial needs of our ingenious youth both in

rural and urban areas that are yet to be adequately met by the banking sector. It would be

appropriate if banks open dedicated counters in towns and cities to meet the needs of innovators.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

6. Grassroots innovators are constrained by the lack of a well-established market. Some do not

even possess the requisite skills and acumen to convert their innovations into sustainable and

marketable products. These potential entrepreneurs require technical assistance. Hence provision of

financial assistance apart, mentoring is also a significant influencing factor in the innovation-

development framework. For want of mentoring and financing, many bright students who possess

innovative solutions to problems either go abroad or pursue a different profession, resulting in what

one may call ‘brain drift’. Arresting this trend calls for the formulation of special schemes in the

banking sector to make the ideas-to-market transformation possible.

7. The banking system, in collaboration with the National Innovation Foundation, can help

create a pool of mentors in every district to assess and meet the financial needs of the innovators.

Bankers have to take the initiative to reach out to the innovators, mentor them, and wherever

possible, connect them with their other clients who may help them in expanding their market. This

role of creating linkages between creative people and successful clients could be a game-changing

institutional innovation. A bank manager can open more doors for an innovator in an hour than what

an innovator could possibly be able to do in a year. The banks would do well to have in place a

monitoring mechanism to ensure managerial facilitation for innovators. An increased awareness

amongst the innovators - that help is round the corner - is required to be built up.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

8. It is pertinent that sensitization and capacity building form an important agenda of inclusive

innovation system. In this context, I urge the banks present in this forum to consider sending some of

their managers to the Festival of Innovations next year. This will provide the banking personnel an

opportunity to interact with the innovators and gain insights about how best to support them.

9. Central universities, IITs and NITs have set up Innovation Clubs to build linkages with the

grassroots innovators. Banks may also join hands with these clubs to provide them requisite advice

about taking innovative ideas forward.

10. New inclusive institutional arrangements are needed to give innovators and innovation-

based enterprises a fair chance of success. Recent initiatives like the Atal Innovation Mission and the

Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) scheme will help spring up thousands of start-ups

across the country. The banking network in our country should be fully geared to meet the challenge of

supporting these new entrepreneurial ventures.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

11. I have fond remembrance of the time 32 years back when, during my first tenure as the

Finance Minister, NABARD was established. Over these years, NABARD has carved a special place for

itself in unfolding the story of India’s economic development. I applaud NABARD for incorporating in

its corporate mission the promotion of innovative initiatives, and for working towards its achievement

through a systematic and strategic approach. Particularly, the effort of NABARD in the sphere of

financing rural innovations through the creation of a separate fund is praiseworthy. Leveraging its

experience of over three decades, NABARD will have an important role to play in fulfilling the

objectives of an innovation-oriented India.

12. I once again compliment NABARD for organizing this meaningful dialogue on financing of

innovation. I call upon all the concerned agencies to start working on the various recommendations

that have emerged from the deliberations. I urge the Ministry of Finance to support the banks in

whatever manner possible to enable them to be more accessible and accountable towards innovators.

13. In the end, I compliment the National Innovation Foundation for their singular contribution

in making this first Festival of Innovations a great success. I declare the Festival closed.

Thank you.
Jai Hind.

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The President attends roundtable on Financing of Innovations with leaders of Banking and Financial sectors

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee attended Round-table on Financing of Innovations with leaders of Banking and Financial Sectors today (March 13, 2015) at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said the high growth that we have envisaged is possible only with productivity improvements across all sectors of the economy. Innovations in different segments, at different levels and for different sections will aid this process in no small measure. The course of development of innovation involves the conversion of a novel idea into a viable product. The role of the banking system is paramount in the entire innovation value-chain since financing of innovation is a critical step.

The President said that the banking system, in collaboration with the National Innovation Foundation, can help create a pool of mentors in every district to assess and meet the financial needs of innovators. Bankers have to take the initiative to reach out to innovators, mentor them, and wherever possible, connect them with their other clients who may help them in expanding their market. This role of creating linkages between creative people and successful clients could be a game-changing institutional innovation. A bank manager can open more doors for an innovator in an hour than what an innovator could possibly be able to do in a year. The banks would do well to have in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure managerial facilitation for innovators. An increased awareness amongst the innovators - that help is round the corner - is required to be built up.

The President said capacity building forms an important agenda of the inclusive innovation system. In this context, he urged banks to consider sending some of their managers to the Festival of Innovations next year. This will provide the banking personnel an opportunity to interact with the innovators and gain insights about how best to support them.

The President said new inclusive institutional arrangements are needed to give innovators and innovation-based enterprises a fair chance of success. The banking network in our country should be fully geared to meet the challenge of supporting these new entrepreneurial ventures.



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President of India to visit Chandigarh and Mandi on March 14-15, 2015

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee will visit Chandigarh and Mandi (Himachal Pradesh) on March 14-15, 2015.

He will be the Chief Guest at the 64th Convocation of Punjab University on March 14, 2015 and the 2nd Convocation of Indian Institute of Technology at Mandi, Himachal Pradesh on March 15, 2015. He will also inaugurate the 58th Plenary Session of All India Ayurvedic Congress at Chandigarh on March 14, 2015.
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Text of PM’s remarks at the Business Meeting hosted by the Ceylon Chambers of Commerce in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Business representatives from India and Sri Lanka,

Distinguished guests,

I am delighted to be here at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Thank you for coming here in such large numbers.

It is a real honour to visit Sri Lanka.

Over the course of these two days, I will meet people from all walks of life.

For me, this is one of the most important meetings in Sri Lanka.

This is because no matter how old and strong the relationship is, economic cooperation is often the locomotive that gives it momentum.

It is also important because for all of us in our region, the most important priority is transforming the lives of our people.

Our path will be determined by our economic choices and the quality of governance. But, business enterprises will remain critical for our success.

I often say that a nation`s fortunes are linked to its neighbourhood. There are many in India who would argue that India is too large to need her neighbours. There are many in our region who worry that India`s economic size will hurt them.

I disagree with both views.

For one, we all need a stable and peaceful neighbourhood to concentrate on national development.

I also believe that countries do better when the entire region moves together.

I said at the SAARC Summit that barriers of boundaries inhibit progress; international partnerships give it speed. That is why we see a rising tide of regional integration and cooperation across the world.

Our region is rich in resources. We constitute a large market. We complement each other. Therefore, our cooperation can be of huge benefit to all of us. There are already powerful examples in South Asia that show us that difference in size is no constraint to beneficial partnerships, if we use our strengths and seize our opportunities.

Bhutan benefits from hydropower exports to India. Nepal has significant manufacturing exports to India – in part driven by Indian investors. Infrastructure, energy, supply chains, traditional handicrafts, modern manufacturing, tourism and services – there are no limits to our possibilities.

I hardly need to tell this informed audience about the transformation unleashed in India over the past ten months. There is new purpose and clarity in our policies; a new vision for inclusive development; new standards in our governance; and, a new level of energy in our economy. Last quarter, India was the fastest growing global economy. We are confident that we can grow even faster.

The progress of one-sixth of humanity is a major economic opportunity for the world.

The global confidence in India has been restored. The world`s engagement with India is at a new level. But, the first claim on us should be that of India`s neighbours. And, I will be happy if India is a catalyst for economic growth in our own region. That is why I speak of a neighbourhood where trade, investment, ideas and people move easily across the borders.

And, as I said in Kathmandu, Nepal, in November, India will do its part for the region. We will work to integrate our markets more. We will make trade smoother and possible through the most direct routes. We will invest in regional connectivity. And, we will share our capabilities in science and technology with South Asia, from advanced medicines to disaster management or space science.

As a friend and neighbor, we attach the highest importance to Sri Lanka`s economic progress.

Sri Lanka is a nation of many achievements and great strengths. It has education, skills and enterprise. It has an excellent location. And, it has won peace now. Sri Lankan businesses have shown that they can compete with the best in the world. Our garments and tea industry know that!

We are pleased to be Sri Lanka`s largest trading partner and one its largest sources of investment. Our Free Trade Agreement in 2000 was a pioneering initiative in the region. It has given a big boost to our trade. Sri Lanka`s exports to India have grown sixteen times – yes, sixteen times – since then. This is impressive by any standards.

I know there are concerns here about the huge trade imbalance. I am prepared to work with you to address them. I want balanced growth in trade. We will try to make it easier and smoother for you to access the Indian market. That is part of my philosophy of ease of doing business in India. Our agreement on Customs cooperation is a step in that direction.

India is opening up to the world. We offer duty free access to Least Developed Countries, including in South Asia. And, India has Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN and others.

We should ensure that Sri Lanka does not fall behind in the changing and competitive world. That is why India and Sri Lanka should move boldly to conclude a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. You should also attract investments from India for exports to India. That should be the natural outcome of our proximity and your strengths.

Indian investments can also upgrade and expand your infrastructure. It is also natural that Indian investors are more likely to invest here because of familiarity and proximity. They are already here. And, I know that there are many large commitments in the pipeline. They are looking for your support.

During this visit, I am pleased with progress on Sampur Thermal Power Project and the Trincomalee Oil Farm. That is good for Sri Lanka`s energy security and for our partnership.

Sustainable development of the Ocean Economy can be a huge area for cooperation.

I also believe that when we connect the lives of people, we strengthen the bonds between nations. We have extended visa on arrival facility to Sri Lanka from April 14. We should do more to connect our countries by air and sea.

India and Sri Lanka were, in some ways, better connected in the past than we are now! In the past, a person could buy a rail ticket in Colombo and travel to Chennai by rail and ferry! Air India`s decision to launch direct flight between our capitals will help reverse that trend.

Tourism unites people and creates economic opportunities. India is already the biggest source of tourists here. We will work together to increase that flow.

In conclusion, let me return to the point I had made at the beginning. India`s progress gives us the ability to create opportunities for our neighbours. Our development partnership has injected commitments of 1.6 billion dollars in assistance from India. That has helped rebuild and upgrade infrastructure in Sri Lanka.

Today, we have offered another Line of Credit of about 318 million dollars for the railways sector. Reserve Bank of India has agreed to provide Central Bank of Sri Lanka a currency swap arrangement for 1.5 billion dollars. This will increase the stability of Sri Lankan Rupee.

It is not just in development partnership. We will also be supportive in advancing your commercial interests. I believe in Sri Lanka`s capabilities. We should engage more. We should open up to each other more.

We should move forward with greater belief in our own strengths; more trust in each other; and, with more confidence in the fruits of our partnership.

As I was saying before, Sri Lanka has the potential to be our most important economic partner in the region. We count on your support to make it happen.

Thank you and wish you all the best. Thank you very much.


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Text of PM’s Address to the Sri Lankan Parliament

Honourable Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Chamal Rajapaksa ji,

Honourable Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Shrimaan Ranil Wickremesinghe ji,

Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Nimal Siripala De Silva,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Distinguished Guests,

I am truly delighted to visit Sri Lanka - a land of beauty, culture and friendship.

I am deeply honoured to be in this Parliament. I am conscious of its rich history.

This Parliament represents one of Asia`s oldest democracies; and, one of its most vibrant.

Long before many others in the world, Sri Lanka gave every individual a vote and voice.

To the people of Sri Lanka, ayubuvan, Vanakkam.

I bring the greetings of 1.25 billion friends; and millions of fans of Sri Lankan cricket.

I bring the blessings from the land of Bodh Gaya to the land of Anuradhapura.

I stand here in respect for our shared heritage; and, in commitment to our shared future.

Last May, when I took the oath of office, I was honoured by the presence of South Asian leaders at the ceremony.

Their presence was a celebration of democracy`s march in our region. It was also recognition of our common destiny.

I am convinced that the future of any country is influenced by the state of its neighbourhood.

The future that I dream for India is also the future that I wish for our neighbours.

We in this region are on the same journey: to transform the lives of our people.

Our path will be easier, the journey quicker and destination nearer when we walk step in step.

As I stand here in Colombo and look north towards the Himalaya, I marvel at our region`s uniqueness – of our rich diversity and our common civilisational links.

We have been formed from the same elements; and, from our interconnected histories.

Today, we stand together as proud independent nations – sovereign and equal.

India and Sri Lanka do not have a land boundary, but we are the closest neighbours in every sense.

No matter where you look in India or Sri Lanka, the many strands of our links - religion, language, culture, food, customs, traditions and epics - come together into a deep and strong bond of familiarity and friendship.

Ours is a relationship that is beautifully defined by the journey of Mahindra and Sanghamitra. They carried the message of peace, tolerance and friendship more than two millenniums ago.

It is evoked by Kannagi, the central character of the great Tamil epic Silapathikaram, who is worshipped as goddess the Pattini in Sri Lanka.

It lives in the Ramayan trail in Sri Lanka.

It expresses itself in devotion at the dargah of the Nagore Andavar and the Christian shrine of Velankanni.

It is reflected in the friendship of Swami Vivekananda and Anagarika Dharmapala, the founder of the Maha Bodhi Society in Sri Lanka and India.

It lives in the work of Mahatma Gandhi`s followers in India and Sri Lanka.

Above all, our relationship thrives through the inter-woven lives of ordinary Indians and Sri Lankans.

Our independent life began at about the same time.

Sri Lanka has made remarkable progress since then.

The nation is an inspiration for our region in human development. Sri Lanka is home to enterprise and skill; and extraordinary intellectual heritage.

There are businesses of global class here.

Sri Lanka is a leader in advancing cooperation in South Asia.

And, it is important for the future of the Indian Ocean Region.

Sri Lanka`s progress and prosperity is also a source of strength for India.

So, Sri Lanka`s success is of great significance to India.

And, as a friend, our good wishes, and our support and solidarity have always been with Sri Lanka.

And, it will always be there for you.

For all of us in our region, our success depends on how we define ourselves as a nation.

All of us in this region, indeed every nation of diversity, have dealt with the issues of identities and inclusion, of rights and claims, of dignity and opportunity for different sections of our societies.

We have all seen its diverse expressions. We have faced tragic violence. We have encountered brutal terrorism. We have also seen successful examples of peaceful settlements.

Each of us has sought to address these complex issues in our own ways.

However we choose to reconcile them, to me something is obvious:

Diversity can be a source of strength for nations.

When we accommodate the aspirations of all sections of our society, the nation gets the strength of every individual.

And, when we empower states, districts and villages, we make our country stronger and stronger.

You can call this my bias. I have been a Chief Minister for 13 years; a Prime Minister for less than a year!

Today, my top priority is to make the states in India stronger. I am a firm believer in cooperative federalism.

So, we are devolving more power and more resources to the states. And, we are making them formal partners in national decision making processes.

Sri Lanka has lived through decades of tragic violence and conflict. You have successfully defeated terrorism and brought the conflict to an end.

You now stand at a moment of historic opportunity to win the hearts and heal the wounds across all sections of society.

Recent elections in Sri Lanka have reflected the collective voice of the nation – the hope for change, reconciliation and unity.

The steps that you have taken in recent times are bold and admirable. They represent a new beginning.

I am confident of a future of Sri Lanka, defined by unity and integrity; peace and harmony; and, opportunity and dignity for everyone.

I believe in Sri Lanka`s ability to achieve it.

It is rooted in our common civilisational heritage.

The path ahead is a choice that Sri Lanka has to make. And, it is a collective responsibility of all sections of the society; and, of all political streams in the country.

But, I can assure you of this:

For India, the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka are paramount.

It is rooted in our interest. It stems from our own fundamental beliefs in this principle.

Hon`ble Speaker and Distinguished Members,

My vision of an ideal neighbourhood is one in which trade, investments, technology, ideas and people flow easily across borders; when partnerships in the region are formed with the ease of routine.

In India, the growth momentum has been restored. India has become the fastest growing major economy in the world.

The world sees India as the new frontier of economic opportunity.

But, our neighbours should have the first claim on India. And I again repeat, the first claim on India is of our neighbours – of Sri Lanka.

I will be happy if India serves a catalyst in the progress of our neighbours.

In our region, Sri Lanka has the potential to be our strongest economic partner.

We will work with you to boost trade and make it more balanced.

India`s trade environment is becoming more open. Sri Lanka should not fall behind others in this competitive world.

That is why we should conclude an ambitious Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

India can also be a natural source of investments – for exports to India and elsewhere; and to build your infrastructure. We have made good progress today. Let us get together to harness the vast potential of the Ocean Economy.

Our two nations must also take the lead in increasing cooperation in the South Asian Region and the linked BIMSTEC Region.

Connecting this vast region by land and sea, our two countries can become engines of regional prosperity.

I also assure you of India`s full commitment to development partnership with Sri Lanka. We see this as a responsibility of a friend and neighbour.

India has committed 1.6 billion U.S. dollars in development assistance. Today, we have committed further assistance of up to 318 million dollars to the railway sector.

We will continue our development partnership. We will be guided by your Government. And, we will do so with the same level of transparency that we expect in our own country.

Last month we signed the agreement on cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

More than anywhere else in the region, I see enormous potential to expand cooperation with Sri Lanka in areas like agriculture, education, health, science and technology, and space. Indeed, we are limited only by our imagination.

We hope that Sri Lanka will take full benefit of India`s satellite for the SAARC Region. This should be in Space by December 2016.

People are at the heart of our relationship. When we connect people, bonds between nations become stronger. That is why we have decided to extend the visa-on-arrival facility to Sri Lankan citizens.

We will also increase connectivity between our countries. We will strengthen ties of culture and religion. Last month we announced reduction in fees for Sri Lankan nationals visiting National Museum in Delhi to see the Kapilavastu Relics. We will bring our shared Buddhist heritage closer to you through an exhibition. Together, we will develop our Buddhist and Ramayana Trails. My birth place Varnagarh was an international centre of Buddhist learning in ancient times. Excavations have revealed a hostel for 2000 students and in plans to redevelop the centre.

Mr Speaker,

A future of prosperity requires a strong foundation of security for our countries and peace and stability in the region.

The security of our two countries is indivisible. Equally, our shared responsibility for our maritime neighbourhood is clear.

India and Sri Lanka are too close to look away from each other. Nor can we be insulated from one another.

Our recent histories have shown that we suffer together; and we are more effective when we work with each other.

Our cooperation helped deal with the devastation of Tsunami in 2004. As a Chief Minister, I was pleased to share our experience in reconstruction after the Bhuj earthquake in 2001.

Our cooperation is also integral to our success in combating terrorism and extremism.

For both of us, local threats remain. But, we see threats arising in new forms and from new sources. We are witnessing globalisation of terrorism. The need for our cooperation has never been stronger than today.

The Indian Ocean is critical to the security and prosperity of our two countries. And, we can be more successful in achieving these goals if we work together; build a climate of trust and confidence; and we remain sensitive to each other`s interest.

We deeply value our security cooperation with Sri Lanka. We should expand the maritime security cooperation between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives to include others in the Indian Ocean area.

I often say that the course of the 21st century would be determined by the currents of the Indian Ocean. Shaping its direction is a responsibility for the countries in the region.

We are two countries at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean. Your leadership and our partnership will be vital for building a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous maritime neighbourhood.

In our deeply interconnected lives, it is natural to have differences. Sometimes, it touches the lives of ordinary people. We have the openness in our dialogue, the strength of our human values and, the goodwill in our relationship to resolve them.

Mr.Speaker,

Sri Lanka and India are at a moment of a great opportunity and responsibility – for realising the dreams of our people.

This is also a time for renewal in our relationship; for a new beginning and new vigour in our partnership.

We have to ensure that our proximity always translates into closeness.

We were honoured that President Sirisena chose India as his first destination last month. I am honoured to be his first guest here.

This is how it should be between neighbours.

Tomorrow I will go to Talaimannar to flag off the train to Madhu Road. This is part of the old India –Lanka rail link.

I recall the lines of a famous song ‘Sindu Nadiyin Misai’ composed by the great nationalist poet Subramanian Bharati in the early 20th century:

‘Singalatheevukkinor paalam ameippom’(we shall construct a bridge to Sri Lanka)

I have come with the hope of building this bridge – a bridge that rests on strong pillars of our shared inheritance; of shared values and vision; of mutual support and solidarity; of friendly exchanges and productive cooperation; and, above all, belief in each other and our shared destiny. Thank you once again for the honour to be with you.

Thank you very much.

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Prime Minister's Media Statement during visit to Sri Lanka

Your Excellency Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka,

Members of the media,

I am delighted to be in Sri Lanka, in this beautiful city of Colombo.

I have eagerly looked forward to visiting one of our closest neighbours and a nation with which we share so much.

I am truly honoured by your warm welcome and friendship.

I am conscious of the significance of this visit. It is the first standalone bilateral visit to Sri Lanka by an Indian Prime Minister since 1987.

Last month, President Sirisena honoured us by making India his first foreign visit as President. I am glad to be here so soon.

This is how it should be between neighbours. We should meet regularly.

It helps us understand each other better; find solutions to mutual concerns; and, move our relationship forward.

That is what we achieved in my meetings with President Sirisena today.

Economic ties are a key pillar of our relationship.

The progress we have made reflects our shared commitment to stronger economic cooperation.

Our trade has seen impressive growth over the past decade. I am aware of your concerns about trade with India. As I said in Delhi, we will try and address them.

The agreement today on cooperation between our customs authorities is a step in that direction. It will simplify trade and reduce non-tariff barriers on both sides.

We are not just looking at addressing problems. We are also focusing on new opportunities.

Today, Lanka IOC and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have agreed to jointly develop the Upper Tank Farm of the China Bay Installation in Trincomalee on mutually agreed terms.

A Joint Task Force will be constituted soon to work out the modalities. India stands ready to help Trincomalee become a regional petroleum hub.

I also look forward to early commencement of work on the ground in the Sampur Coal Power Project. This landmark project would meet Sri Lanka`s energy needs.

The ocean economy is a new frontier that holds enormous promise for both of us. It is a priority for our two countries. Our decision to set up a Joint Task Force on Ocean Economy is a significant step, especially because of our proximity.

People are at the heart of our relations. We have taken a number of decisions to encourage people to people contacts, improve connectivity, and increase tourism.

We will extend the facility of "Tourist Visa on Arrival - Electronic Travel Authorization” Scheme to Sri Lankan citizens from the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on 14 April 2015.

Air India will soon start direct flights between New Delhi and Colombo.

We will cooperate in developing a Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka and a Buddhist Circuit in India.

We will organize a Festival of India in Sri Lanka later this year. Sri Lanka is where Buddhism has truly flourished. We will be organizing an exhibition showcasing our Buddhist heritage as part of this festival.

The Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in youth affairs is an important long term investment in our relationship.

India is privileged to be a development partner for Sri Lanka.

We will provide a fresh Line of Credit of up to US$ 318 million for the railways sector. This will be used to procure rolling stock, and to restore and upgrade existing railway track.

We are pleased to provide assistance for the construction of the Rabindranath Tagore auditorium at Ruhuna University in Matara.

Tomorrow, I will visit, some of the projects, being financed by India, including the housing project. I am pleased that more than 27,000 houses have already been built.

The Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka have agreed to enter into a Currency Swap Agreement of US$ 1.5 billion. This will help keep the Sri Lankan rupee stable.

We discussed the fishermen’s issue. This complex issue involves livelihood and humanitarian concerns on both sides. We should handle it from this perspective. At the same time, we need to find a long term solution to this issue.

It is also important that fishermen`s associations of India and Sri Lanka meet at the earliest to find a mutually acceptable arrangement. It can then be taken forward by both governments.

I also took this opportunity to convey our admiration for President Srinisena`s efforts to build an inclusive future for Sri Lanka.

I conveyed our sincere support and good wishes for Sri Lanka`s new journey of peace, reconciliation and progress.

We stand with you in your efforts to build a future that accommodates the aspirations of all sections of society, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, for a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka.

We believe that early and full implementation of the 13th Amendment and going beyond it would contribute to this process.

I also conveyed India`s commitment to further strengthening our partnership in advancing peace and prosperity in our region, including our common maritime neighbourhood.

I would like to once again thank President Sirisena for the warm welcome and hospitality.

The meeting today has been very productive. It gives me great confidence and optimism about the future of our relations.

Thank you.


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Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Roundtable with Leaders of Banking and Financial sectors Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Roundtable with Leaders of Banking and Financial sectors Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 3:15 PM Rating: 5

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