Indian Envoy Santosh Jha Speaks On The Promotion Of Ramayana Trail In Sri Lanka

(MENAFN- NewsIn) Ladies and gentlemen

I am happy to be present here today for the event promoting the Ramayana trail. I thank the organizers for inviting me to this event.

I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to the delegation from India led by Swami Govind Dev Giriji. Their presence here confirms that the deep connection between the people of two countries goes back several centuries into antiquity. A time when people and ideas were moving across seamlessly and without the modern impositions that sometimes constrain and restrict easy travel and connections between our peoples. We were reminded of this connect recently by His Excellency President Ranil Wickremesinghe who mentioned that even as we launch the Universal Payments Interface or the UPI in Sri Lanka, which will allow Indian tourists to make payments in Indian rupees in Sri Lanka, there is evidence of the use of each other's coins or ancient currencies in both India and Sri Lanka deep into our antiquity.


We all know today that the Ramayana trail stretches from India to Sri Lanka. That this is so was not so well known to many in our two countries even a decade or so ago. Despite the references to this in our ancient epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.

I myself discovered this first hand when I came to Sri Lanka in 2007 and worked at the Indian High Commission for three years.

I had the pleasure of visiting these places in Sri Lanka multiple times during that period.

So far, in my present tenure too I have visited some of these places and more are part of my plans in the near future.

I am, therefore, glad that today the idea of Ramayana trail has caught up the imagination of the people on both sides of the Palk strait.

Promoting tourism is an important objective of both our countries. For Sri Lanka, in particular, it has been an important source of economic activity and promotion of Ramayana trail holds a significant promise.

I must also recall that our leaders have pledged to promote the Buddhist circuit and the Ramayana trail in both our countries in the Vision Document that was issued when our leaders – President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi – had their summit meeting in New Delhi in July 2023. I must add that this is the vision of our leaders that guides our actions today in all areas.
The visit by respected Swamiji from Ayodhya and the activities organised during his visit to Sri Lanka will I am sure further help in raising awareness about the Ramayana trail among the Indians. It is bound to increase the flow of Indian tourists and pilgrims to these destinations.

India already contributes more than 1/5th of the tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka. India is also the largest source of tourist traffic to Sri Lanka. Unlike others, Indian tourists also visit both Buddhist and Hindu places of worship. They are also attracted to historical sites existing across Sri Lanka. In that sense, they are more diversified in their choice of sites and places they visit in Sri Lanka. The economic value of attracting Indian tourists into Sri Lanka, therefore, is greater as the benefits of their travels goes to a larger cross section of people dependent on tourism business and to those who are located in all the provinces in Sri Lanka other words, Indian tourism has a larger regional spread in Sri Lanka and so its benefits too are similarly more dispersed and distributed. This is unlike other tourists, who are mostly interested in adventure and beach tourism and therefore their business benefits have more limited spread and distribution.

Our effort to establish the land bridge, on which we have begun our joint work, promises to further provide fillip to our ongoing efforts to promote tourism between our two countries. No doubt that it will be a game changer.
It will, of course, bring many benefits to communities along the alignment of this connectivity but more specifically, it will make Ramayana and Buddhism tourism easier and more alluring to people on both sides.

I must also add that the Ramayana trail also confirms the deep people-to-people connect and shared civilisational antiquity of India and Sri Lanka.

In that sense, it reaffirms my oft-repeated assertion that we are civilisational twins sharing the same antiquity. From this it follows that we are not after all big or small sisters or brothers but one of the same age and antiquity with neither being small or big vis-a-vis each other.

Our relationship is special and unique in this respect. For us, we have to cooperate as that is the only option. We must stand hand-in-hand with each other in good as well as difficult times. We cannot rest with just coming to assist one another episodically but must remain engaged at all times in all spheres. Our commitment to one another has to be the greatest as there is no other relationship that is more vital, critical and natural as the one we have with each other. In fact, in modern political and economic systems, too, we are similar. We are democratic, open polities and societies and open market economies.

Our socio-economic profile as a low middle income country also entails that we can offer each other the benefits of our respective successful experiences, which no other society, economy or polity can do, especially those which are not governed by these democratic norms.

Our cooperation must not be limited or transactional. Our commitment must be total and to all aspects of our shared existence and our location in close geographical proximity.

I want to end here. I would like to thank Mr. Manivanan for the invitation to attend this event. I wish our Indian guests a pleasant stay and experience in Sri Lanka. May the Ramayana trail flourish in the same way as our friendship flourishes today.




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