Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said India takes pride in the strengthening of democracy in Sri Lanka, and stands ready to continue to extend all necessary support for the island nation in its new chapter.
"As your immediate neighbor and the world's largest democracy, India takes pride in the strengthening of democracy in Sri Lanka, and stands ready to continue to extend all necessary support as Sri Lanka embarks upon a new chapter in its history," President Mukherjee said.
The Indian President welcomed the President Maithripala Sirisena and Mrs. Jayanthi Sirisena on Monday night to a grand banquet hosted at his residence Rashtrapati Bhavan in honor of the visiting Sri Lankan leader.
Speaking at the occasion, President Mukherjee said Sri Lanka occupies a special place in India`s worldview and the relationship between the two countries is not merely geographic.
"The symbiotic relationship between India and Sri Lanka is not based merely on geography, which is compelling enough, but is also predicated on shared religions, cultural practices, family ties, linguistic commonalities, economic cooperation, political understanding, and much more," he said.
President Mukherjee noted that in contemporary times, the relations have become multi-faceted, encompassing trade and investment, science, education, security and defence, and above all, people-to-people exchanges.
"As two cricket playing nations, we rejoice as much in the achievements of Sanath Jayasuriya and Muthiah Muralidharan as we do in our own players," the Indian President remarked.
Noting that the first FTA (Free Trade Agreement) that India signed with any country was with Sri Lanka, President Mukherjee stressed that it is time to take the India-Sri Lanka economic engagement to the next level.
He said Sri Lanka is well-placed to take full advantage of the Indian economy that resurged over the last year.
"We should look at steps to enhance connectivity between our two nations."
Recalling India's support in Sri Lanka's development projects such as the reconstruction of the Northern Rail Line, the flagship housing project and President Mukherjee said India is privileged to be a partner in Sri Lanka`s development efforts, focusing on capacity building, human resource development and infrastructure support.
The Indian President pointed out that Sri Lanka's electoral victory has opened new opportunities for further strengthening the bilateral relations.
"We must build on our deep and enduring links of history and culture, and work towards the shared prosperity of the people of our countries and the region. A vast vista of cooperation beckons us," he said.
The Indian President raised a toast to the good health of President Maithripala Sirisena, to the continued progress and prosperity of the Sri Lankan people, and to closer friendship and cooperation between India and Sri Lanka.