Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced a direct Air India flight between Colombo and Varanasi, his constituency. “From August 2017, Air India will operate direct flights between Colombo and Varanasi. This will ease travel of brothers and sisters from Sri Lanka to visit Varanasi, the land of Kashi Vishwanath,” he said while participating in the Buddhist International Vesak Day celebrations in the Sri Lankan Capital.

On the occasion, Modi also spoke about ties with Sri Lanka, saying India was a “friend and partner” that will support the island country’s “nation-building endeavours”. Holding bilateral trade between the countries at $2.6 billion (around Rs 16,720 crore), the prime minister further they will boost trade and investment ties for “mutual benefit”. “India’s rapid growth will bring dividends to the entire region, especially Sri Lanka.”

Announcing the sectors for cooperation, Modi said India-Sri Lanka ties will be strengthened in the fields of energy, agriculture, transport, culture, water, education, health, power, culture, shelter, sports and human resources, according to Hindustan Times.

During his two-day visit to Sri Lanka, Modi met President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, saying he had “reinforced our interest in common goals”. On Friday, he inaugurated the Dickoya Hospital in Colombo that was built with assistance from India.

This is the prime minister’s second bilateral visit to Sri Lanka in two years. It comes at a time when China is looking to make inroads in the country.