Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe through live video conferencing from New Delhi for the launch of the island-wide expansion of the 1990 Suwaseriya Emergency Ambulance Service to Jaffna on 21 July.
Several ministers and other dignitaries from Sri Lanka graced the occasion. High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, was also present.
Speaking at the occasion, Prime Minister Modi expressed happiness that the promise he had made to expand the ambulance service islandwide in Sri Lanka during his visit last year was now fulfilled. He noted that the event marks another major achievement in the development partnership of India and Sri Lanka. He underlined that India sees Sri Lanka not just as a neighbour but as a very special and trusted partner in the South Asian and Indian Ocean family.
Noting that the expansion of the service islandwide started from the Northern Province, he said that India was happy to work together with Sri Lanka to wipe away the tears of the past and usher in a bright future. He noted that the local skillset and local employment in Sri Lanka would receive a boost with the expansion of the service.
Prime Minister Modi fondly recalled his last two visits to Sri Lanka. He highlighted that India had been and would always remain ‘the first responder’ for Sri Lanka in both good and bad times. Prime Minister Modi appreciated the efforts of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for meeting the aspirations of all the citizens of Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister Modi recalled what Mahatma Gandhi had said in 1927 when he had visited Sri Lanka on the invitation of the Student Congress of Jaffna: “The message that I can leave for Jaffna as for the whole of Ceylon is: let it not be ‘out of sight, out of mind’.”
Prime Minister Modi said that he had the same message today. He exhorted people of India and Sri Lanka to be in touch with each other so that they could know each other better and become even closer friends. He encouraged the people of Sri Lanka to come and experience the New India that was taking shape.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe thanked the Indian Government for the generous assistance and noted that this was an important milestone in the India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship.
Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe together flagged off the first two ambulances.
The Emergency Ambulance Service was first launched in 2016 in the Western and Southern Provinces of Sri Lanka under an Indian grant of $ 7.5 million. This grant included the purchase of 88 ambulances, operational expenditure of the service for one year and setting up an emergency response centre. This service is now being expanded to the remaining seven provinces with an additional grant of $ 15.02 million, covering the cost of 209 ambulances, training costs and operational expenditure for one year in all seven provinces.
The emergency ambulance service, which can be obtained by simply dialing the toll free number ‘1990’ on any network in Sri Lanka, is the largest Indian grant project in Sri Lanka after the Indian Housing Project. India remains committed to further strengthening its bilateral partnership with Sri Lanka based on Sri Lanka’s own choices and priorities.