Colombo, 23 June
India on Thursday assured Sri Lanka that it is ready to help the island nation accelerate economic recovery through boosting investment, connectivity and strengthening economic ties, as a four-member delegation led by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra met with the country’s top leadership, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Here.
Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, leading to severe shortages of essential commodities like food, medicine, cooking gas and fuel across the country.
The delegation, which also included Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ajay Seth, Chief Economic Advisor V Anantha Nageswaran and Joint Secretary, Indian Ocean Region, Karthik Pandey, met President Rajapaksa for the first time.
During the meeting with President Rajapaksa, the Indian side thanked him for his commitment to the development of India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations.
“The two sides had a productive exchange of views on the current economic situation in Sri Lanka as well as India’s ongoing support,” the Indian High Commission said in a press release here.
During the meeting, Kwatra told Rajapaksa that as a close friend, India would extend its full support to Sri Lanka to overcome this difficult situation, newsfirst.lk website reported.
The report said the delegation reviewed the assistance already provided in terms of fuel, medicine, fertilizers and other essential commodities and said that the Indian government was committed to supporting Sri Lanka.
The delegation later met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the two sides had in-depth discussions on the economy of Sri Lanka and the efforts made by the Government of Sri Lanka to achieve economic recovery.
“In this context, both sides highlighted the importance of promoting the India-Sri Lanka investment partnership, including infrastructure, connectivity, renewable energy and deepening economic ties between the two countries,” the release said.
During the meetings, the Indian delegation underscored that the unprecedented recent economic, financial and humanitarian assistance of more than USD 3.5 billion to the people of Sri Lanka through the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and Security and Development for All (SAGAR) in the region was guided by sight. of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The talks between the two sides were held in a clear, cordial and constructive manner,” the release said.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said he had “a fruitful discussion” with the Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Kwatra.
He tweeted, ‘I look forward to strong bilateral relations with India.
The Foreign Secretary also held a separate meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Ambassador Aruni Wijewardene. They agreed to work in close coordination to strengthen diplomatic engagement and undertake bilateral visits at the earliest, the release said.
It added that the Sri Lankan side appreciated the continued support of the Government and the people of India over the years in various fields such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, disaster management, humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, commercial engagement and people-to-people exchanges. Relationship with people
The development assistance provided by India is more than US$5 billion, including grants of over US$600 million, including the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity Project. India remains the largest source of tourism for Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan side also welcomed the support extended by India during the meetings at the IMF in March this year and on subsequent occasions in various fora including regional and multilateral organisations.
He further said, “They acknowledged the initiative taken by the Indian leadership in encouraging other countries to support Sri Lanka in tackling the post-COVID normalization of economic activities,” it added.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had earlier tweeted that during the meeting, the Indian delegation underlined that India stands ready to help Sri Lanka accelerate economic recovery through investment, connectivity and strengthening economic ties.
“Reiterated Sri Lanka’s centrality to India’s #NeighborhoodFirst policy. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the development of India-Lanka relations,” Bagchi said.
The visit of the Indian delegation coincides with the visit of the IMF delegation that is joining Colombo for a proposed employee-level agreement, which should end with a possible bailout.
On Wednesday, Wickremesinghe in Parliament said that India has extended its maximum by providing emergency assistance of USD 4 billion since January after the economic crisis struck.
He was banking on extended credit lines for further fuel purchases.
The nearly bankrupt country, coupled with an acute foreign exchange crisis that resulted in foreign debt defaults, announced in April that it would make foreign debt repayments of about USD 7 billion out of about USD 25 billion due by 2026 for the year. is suspending.
Sri Lanka’s total external debt is $51 billion.
Indian credit lines have provided Sri Lanka a lifeline since January amid growing public outcry over deteriorating economic conditions.
A local official said the key requirement of Sri Lanka is to secure bridging finance till the IMF facility is achieved. He said that India will continue to be a major partner in this endeavour.