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India will always be 'first responder' for Sri Lanka: PM Modi

By Deepika

New Delhi, July 21: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched country-wide Emergency Ambulance service for Sri Lanka through video conferencing from New Delhi.

PM Modi

Addressing the inaugural function via video link from the national capital, PM Modi said that the event marks another major achievement in the development partnership of India and Sri Lanka.

"During my visit last year, I had promised that India will work for expanding the pre-hospital Emergency Ambulance Service all over Sri Lanka. I am happy that India has fulfilled its promise in a timely manner," Modi said.

Highlighting the close ties between the two neighbors, Modi said, "It is not just a co-incidence that India has t he privilege to be Sri Lanka's partner in establishing this first responder service and in its expansion."

"In good times and bad, India has been, and will always be, the first responder for Sri Lanka."

The service was introduced in two provinces of Sri Lanka with grant assistance from India and will be expanded to the remaining seven provinces today.

In addition, four to six staff members are to be deployed f.rom India to provide management and technical expertise guidance.

India has given a grant of 22.8 million US dollars - 7.6 million in the first phase - and 15.2 million for the country-wide expansion. Under the first phase, 88 ambulances were purchased for the two provinces, while another 209 ambulances are being provided to cover all districts in the country.

This is the largest Indian grant project in Sri Lanka after Indian housing project. Apart from providing ambulances, the grant covers training of manpower in India and meeting operational costs for one year. The project is another milestone in the wide raging development partnership between India and Sri Lanka.

The present agreement between the Indian entity, GVK EMRI Lanka Pvt Ltd and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine is to be extended.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Sri Lanka in March 2015, he had received a request for assistance for setting of the emergency ambulance service in the country.

After the visit, Wickremesinghe, wrote to Modi for support for setting up of an emergency ambulance service and its operations for the first year. Modi had assured full support. The decision was formalised in September 2015 during the visit of Wickremesinghe to India.

India's development portfolio in Sri Lanka is nearly 2.9 billion US dollars, out of which 545 million dollars is pure grants.

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