India on Wednesday assured Sri Lanka that it can depend on the South Asian giant as a reliable partner in the region. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is in Colombo on a three-day visit, said India has always underlined unity and territorial integrity of the island nation.

“India has been strongly committed to unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. India will be a dependable and reliable partner,” Jaishankar said at a joint press briefing along with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena.

Jaishankar said New Delhi was ready to assist Colombo in enhancing its capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges in the Indian Ocean region.

It may be noted that China has increased its activities in the Indian Ocean, which is a cause of concern for the region’s countries.

Jaishankar said his government is looking at post COVID-19 cooperation with Sri Lanka.

“I believe COVID has given us an opportunity to work even more closely together. It hasn’t dented our bilateral cooperation but the virtual summit between our prime ministers was the watermark of our relationship last year,” the External Affairs Minister noted.

The minister also hoped for the early return of Indian fishermen from Sri Lanka, who were captured by the island nation’s Navy. He noted that the India- Sri Lanka joint working group on fisheries had met recently and discussed all outstanding issues.

Jaishankar pointed out during talks today that Indian businesses were very keen to invest in Sri Lanka.

“We’ve talked about special zones for pharmaceutical manufacturing and tourism,” he said.

On his part, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister thanked India for the support provided by it during the coronavirus pandemic.

“On behalf of President of Sri Lanka, the government and the people for Sri Lanka, I convey our profound gratitude to PM Modi and the Indian government for the tremendous support India extended in the past several months to mitigate the adverse impact of the COVID pandemic,” Gunawardena said.

“India’s Neighbourhood First policy has made a positive impact on the health sector and economy during this period of unprecedented crisis,” he added.