Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, today announced that Air India will operate direct flights between Colombo and Varanasi from August this year.

Modi said that the two countries will cooperate in transport, energy, agriculture, education, health, power, culture, water, shelter, sports and human resources and will continue to be a ‘friend’ of Sri Lanka while addressing at the 14 International Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo. Modi announced that a direct flight between Colombo and Varanasi will be launched in this August which will ease travel of people from Sri Lanka to visit Varanasi, the land of Kashi Vishwanath.

PM Modi said that he believed that India and Sri Lanka are at a “moment of great opportunity” with regards to relations and said that Sri Lanka would find a “friend and partner” in India who will “their nation-building endeavours”. Speaking about the importance of Buddhist teachings and learning in Sri Lankan culture on the occasion of the huge Buddhist summit, the Prime Minister said that Lord Buddha’s message from two and a half millennia ago is relevant today as well.

PM Modi said Sri Lanka takes pride in being among the most important nerve centres of Buddhist teachings and learning, and the Vesak Day celebrations “is an occasion for us to celebrate the unbroken shared heritage of Buddhism”. Modi also said that that India and Sri Lanka’s friendship is etched in time by the great masters and the relationship is spread across many layers.