New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday jointly inaugurated the renovated Duraiappah Stadium in Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka with Modi stating that India's economic growth must bring benefit to its neighbours.
Modi, who took part in the event through video-conferencing from New Delhi, said India desires to see an economically prosperous Sri Lanka.
"A Sri Lanka where unity and integrity; peace, harmony and security and equal opportunity and dignity prevails throughout the country among all its people," Modi said.
He said the Duraiappah Stadium stands as another symbol of lasting friendship between India and Sri Lanka.
Sirisena, in his speech in Jaffna, described the inauguration as "a historic occasion which will strengthen relations between India and Sri Lanka".
Duraiappah Stadium, named in honour of a former mayor of Jaffna, the late Alfred Thambirajah Duraiappah, has been renovated by the Indian government at a cost of over Rs 7 crore ($1 million).
Sirisena attended the event at the stadium in the Tamil-dominated city in northern Sri Lanka.
Modi said India will "walk side by side" with Sri Lanka as it charts its own path to progress and prosperity for all of its citizens.
He said support to Sri Lanka's development will be based on the priorities of the island nation.
"India strongly believes that its economic growth must drive and bring benefit to its neighbours. Duraiappah Stadium embodies the spirit of our cooperation. Indeed, India's support for Sri Lanka's development is a promise of our friendship. And, that it will be based on your priorities and your needs is an assurance that you can rely on," he said.
Modi said the stadium was not just brick and mortar but a symbol of optimism and economic development as also an arena for a prosperous and healthy future for Jaffna's youth.
"Its foundations are supported by your courage and great sacrifices. Its successful completion is a signal that you have left the past behind and are looking to the promise of a prosperous future," the Prime Minister said.
He said relations between India and Sri Lanka were not limited to confines of two governments but reside in rich contacts of "history, culture, language, art and geography."
Modi also referred to the International Day of Yoga on June 21 and Sri Lanka's role of being among the first supporters of the UN resolution on the subject.
He said the curtain raiser for the event had come in the form of "Surya Namaskar" held at the stadium.
"The 'Surya Namaskar' has sent the message of holistic healthcare, harmonious and sustainable living with nature to the world. We could not have asked for a more fitting start and tribute to the International Day of Yoga," he said.
The stadium suffered huge damages and remained abandoned during the civil war.
Its renovation was started in 1999 when the conflict-ravaged northern areas saw relative bouts of peace and calm.
At least 23 human skeletons, including those of some disappeared children, were unearthed when the stadium was being refurbished, according to a 2002 report on Sri Lanka child soldiers by Daya Somasundaram, a renowned psychiatrist in northern Sri Lanka.
The bodies were believed to be of those arrested by Sri Lanka security forces and later allegedly killed in suspected extra-judicial murders.
The stadium now flaunts two pavilions, a gymnasium, a sprawling playground and incandescent lights.
It has two galleries that can seat 1,850 spectators. The stadium could be utilised for all types of sports and track events, except cricket.
According to Indian officials, the renovated stadium will provide the necessary infrastructure to promote sports and recreational activities, and benefit more than 50,000 students from different schools and educational institutions in the Northern Province.