“After our Prime Minister visited India in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed that we will sign an economic and technology cooperation agreement between the two countries. The agreement will not only cover trade but will cover investment and services. It’s going to be a very broad agreement. At the moment we are finalizing the draft agreement and at the end of the year we will discuss with our Indian colleagues and hopefully by May 2016, the two Prime Ministers can sign the India-Sri Lanka economic and technology cooperation agreement,” said Weerakoon speaking to reporters in Odisha.
Weerakoon was in Odisha to attend a two-day international seminar Kalinga-Lanka: Reviving Old Linkages and Exploring New Opportunities as guest of honour at the Utkal University.
The academic-cum-business seminar is being organized by Kalinga Lanka Foundation, a non-government, not-for-profit cultural organization by like-minded eminent people from India and Sri Lanka to celebrate the common heritage and strengthen the historical relationship between peoples of India with particular reference to erstwhile Kalinga and peoples of Sri Lanka through multi-dimensional initiatives.
The seminar aims to develop awareness and activate an age-old relationship between Sri Lanka and India through fresh initiatives in the field of education, art, culture, Buddhist pilgrimage, tourism, skill developments, joint ventures and commerce.
The Sri Lankan High Commissioner has expressed his country’s eagerness for cooperation with Odisha in the fields of tourism, culture and business. The High Commissioner said all kinds of cooperation will be extended on this account.
Weerakoon informed that very soon the second chapter of the foundation will be opened in Sri Lanka. He further informed that very soon more flights will operate to India.
“We will increase our cultural relations with Sri Lanka. We share a maritime history now we need air connectivity,” said Ashok Panda, Minister Tourism and Culture.
“Since Sri Lanka’s Colombo has turned out to be a major international trade hub. If shipping from our Paradip and Dhamra ports can be connected with that of Colombo it will be very much beneficial for exports and imports. We can also fetch investments in the export industry,” said Baijayant Panda MP.
Notably, ancient Kalinga or present day Odisha’s relationship with this island State is some 2,300 years old.
Post Kalinga War, in the third century BC, Mahendra and Sanghamitra, son and daughter of the Magadhan emperor Ashoka, who was converted from Chandashoka to Dharmashoka, accompanied by a few families from the ancient Kalinga sailed to Singhala, present day Sri Lanka, with the mission of propagating Buddhist religion and culture.
The brother sister duo carried a sapling of Bodhi, sacred fig scientifically termed Ficus Religiosa, and planted it at Anuradhapura, the first known imperial headquarters of Sri Lanka.
As this tiny sapling grew into a gigantic tree, the population of Kalingan Sinhalese grew simultaneously and the cultural ties of Kalinga with Sri Lanka went stronger with the evolution of a culture influenced by Kalingan Buddhism that has now become the Sinhalese culture.
Sri Lanka’s history Mahabhasa written in pali language in the sixth century throws light on this relationship. It also says, Singhala or Sri Lanka’s first king, Bijaya too hailed from eastern India or Kalinga’s Singhapura.
It’s also believed that the name Singhala or Sinhala is derived from Kalinga’s Singhapura. Also there are references in history that Lord Buddha’s relic (tooth) was sent from Kalinga to Sri Lanka.
There is no doubt that Singhala’s culture has been deeply influenced by Odisha or the then Kalinga. The Sadhavas or merchants from Kalinga had further strengthened maritime relation between the two States.
These merchants used to make a stopover at Sri Lanka on their voyages to Bali, Java and Sumatra islands of present day Indonesia. With trade developed convergence and exchange of cultures. Ancestors of present day Sri Lankans mostly have their roots in Kalinga.
The two-day seminar is being attended by scholars and representatives from prominent Universities and Institutions such as South Asian University, New Delhi; University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka; University of Colombo, Sri Lanka; Utkal University, Bhubaneswar; Ravenshaw University,Cuttack; Odisha Institute for Maritime and South East Asian Studies (OIMSEAS); Utkal Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UCCI); department of Tourism & Culture, Odisha; National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), department of Handicraft, Handloom & Textile, Odisha; Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management and National Institute of Oceanography, Goa. (Courtesy Odisha Sun Times)