Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday assured India’s full support to the steps taken by Colombo to improve the living conditions of minority Tamils in the island country.

“I am aware that Sri Lanka government is taking active steps to improve your living conditions for which a five-year National Plan of Action has been launched,” he said, adding, “India to fully support active steps of Sri Lanka to improve living conditions of Tamils of central Sri Lanka.”

“Diversity calls for celebration and not confrontation. Sinhala and Tamil, people and languages, existed harmoniously,” Modi told the Tamil community members in Dickoya town in the tea-growing Central Province of Sri Lanka.

“We need to strengthen, not separate, (these) threads of unity and harmony,” he said.

He lauded the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and said people like Tamil Nadu’s late former chief minister MG Ramachandran and cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan have left an indelible mark on society.

“Another national icon of India from later years, Puratchi Thalaivar MGR was born on this very soil, establishing a life-long connection. In more recent times, you have gifted to the world one of the finest spinners in cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan,” PM Modi said.

The PM recalled his own association with tea, and said he shares something with the Tamil people of central Sri Lanka. “People world over are familiar with famous Ceylon tea that originates in this fertile land,” he said, referring to his humble past as a ‘chaiwallah’ in his speeches.

“We remember and salute the struggle of the Tamil people of central Sri Lanka, their forefathers and leaders like Saumiyamurthy Thondaman,” he said.

Modi announced the construction of 10,000 houses in upcountry areas and vocational training centres and 10 engineering training centres and labs to impart suitable skills, as well as computer and science labs in schools in the tea plantation areas.

(With inputs from agencies)