Colombo: Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay on Friday handed over a statue of Maitri Buddha brought from India to Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

High Commissioner Baglay also reviewed the bilateral cooperation between the two countries and agreed to bolster India-Sri Lanka ties in key sectors further.

In a tweet, Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka wrote, "High Commissioner handed over a statue of Maitri Buddha brought from #India to Hon'ble President. In their discussions, they reviewed all-round bilateral cooperation and agreed to further strengthen close India-Sri Lanka ties in all spheres."

Buddhism serves as one of the strongest pillars connecting the two nations. Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa held a Virtual Summit in September 2020 in which they held talks to further strengthen people-to-people ties by exploring opportunities in the field of civilizational linkages and common heritage such as Buddhism, Ayurveda and Yoga.

Rajapaksa also welcomed the announcement made by PM Modi of India's grant assistance of USD 15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries. The grant was to assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism including inter alia through construction/renovation of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of The Buddha's relics, strengthening engagement of Buddhist scholars and clergy etc.

India greatly values its close relationship with Sri Lanka. This relationship has become multifaceted and diverse, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance, including connectivity, development partnership, cooperation in agriculture, power, education, human resource development and culture, greater economic engagement.

The relationship has been further strengthened through bilateral exchanges, including at the highest level in the recent past.

As Sri Lanka faces an unprecedented economic crisis, India has been at forefront of extending economic assistance to Sri Lanka as per their requirements and is one of the countries that have provided the maximum amount of assistance in time of need.

Since the beginning of 2022, Sri Lanka has experienced an escalating economic crisis and the government has defaulted on its foreign loans. The United Nations warned that 5.7 million people "require immediate humanitarian assistance."

Many Sri Lankans are experiencing extreme shortages of essentials including food and fuel. The economy has been in a freefall since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sri Lanka is also facing a foreign exchange shortage, which has, incidentally, affected its capacity to import food and fuel, leading to power cuts in the country. The shortage of essential goods forced Sri Lanka to seek assistance from friendly countries.