Sri Lanka, Bhutan leaders discuss enhancing bilateral cooperation, establishing air links

Apr 10, Colombo: Leaders of Sri Lanka and Bhutan today discussed enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in education and agriculture sectors and establishing direct air links.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and the visiting Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay agreed to establish air links between Paro and Colombo by Druk Air, the Bhutanese national carrier when they met at the President’s Office Friday.

President Sirisena welcomed the leader of the Himalayan nation with military guard honor and a 21-gun salute before proceeding to bilateral discussions.

Both leaders agreed that that Sri Lanka and Bhutan have a special relationship as the two countries are bound by common spiritual link of Buddhism.

Prime Minister Tobgay expressed appreciation to Sri Lanka for providing placements to Bhutanese students in Sri Lankan medical colleges and said it is a great help to the improvement of the health service in his country.

President Sirisena said he would provide more seats to Bhutanese students at the Medical faculty of the Kotalawala Defence Academy and examine the possibility of increasing the number of scholarships given to Bhutan.

Sri Lankan President promised to take measures to increase cooperation in areas such as health, agriculture and tourism between the two countries.

President Sirisena praised Bhutan for adopting a democratic constitution and added that Sri Lanka too could learn from the new Bhutanese Constitution, especially at a time when Sri Lanka is attempting to further improve democratic institutions and individual freedoms.

The Bhutanese Premier expressed his admiration for Sri Lanka, which is the first Asian democracy, which continued to safeguard democracy relentlessly. He added that it gives inspiration to young democracies such as Bhutan.

President Sirisena thanked Bhutan for the cooperation extended to Sri Lanka at the UN and other international bodies.

Prime Minister Tobgay congratulated President Sirisena on his electoral victory and said it reflected the enormous trust and confidence placed on him by the people of Sri Lanka.

He expressed appreciation to Sri Lanka for the gift of a Sri Maha Bodhi sapling and said it will be highly venerated and respected in his country. He said that the Bodhi sapling will be a sacred symbol of the extraordinary spiritual bonds between Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

A budded sapling from the Jaya Shri Maha Bodhi will be handed over to the Bhutan Premier further strengthening the religious ties.

Prime Minister Tobgay also met with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe today and held discussions.

Another round of bilateral talks is due to take place with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and several other dignitaries today.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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