India’s assures debt-ridden Sri Lanka of support after aid talks | World News

India on Thursday assured Sri Lanka of its “fullest support” in overcoming the island nation’s worst economic crisis in decades after a team held discussions with the leadership in Colombo on economic cooperation.

The delegation, which was led by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra included economic affairs secretary Ajay Seth and chief economic advisor V Anantha Nageswaran, met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the capital.

New Delhi has been keeping a close eye on the continuing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, which has already resulted in a severe shortage of fuel and a sharp increase in food prices. Sri Lanka has turned to both India and China for aid as it negotiates a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

India has provided economic and humanitarian aid worth more than $3.5 billion to Sri Lanka since the beginning of the year and the discussions also focussed on further assistance.

A statement issued by the Sri Lankan president’s office stated that Kwatra said the Indian government “will extend its fullest support to Sri Lanka in overcoming the current difficult situation as a close friend”.

The statement added the Indian delegation had “stated that the government of India [is] committed to provide continued support to Sri Lanka”.

“Both parties discussed on the future course of action of the Indian aid programme to stabilise and revive the Sri Lankan economy, at length,” the statement said.

In recent weeks, Sri Lanka has sought a fresh currency swap of $1 billion and a new $500-million line of credit for fuel purchases, though the Indian side is yet to respond to these requests, people familiar with the matter said. India has so far provided two lines of credit for emergency purchases of fuel, food, medicines and other items and deferred the repayment of two loans to the Asian Clearing Union.

The people cited above said India is willing to provide all support to Sri Lanka to help it cope with the economic crisis. Besides economic and investment cooperation, New Delhi is considering further financial aid, they said.

“We provided help in terms of fuel and fertilisers and we are willing to help Sri Lanka by providing essential commodities,” one of the people said. India will also support Sri Lanka in obtaining multilateral funding.

“The Indian delegation discussed all such matters with top Sri Lankan officials to help them in finding solutions to their problems. India is a refining hub of this region and it can support Sri Lanka by supplying petroleum products such as auto fuel and LPG,” the person added.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted that the two sides held productive discussions on India’s ongoing support. The Indian side stands ready to help Sri Lanka in “quick economic recovery through promoting investments, connectivity and strengthening economic linkages”, he said.

In a tweet, President Rajapaksa thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian government “for their continued friendship during these difficult times”.

A statement issued by the Indian high commission was silent on any further aid to Sri Lanka but said “both sides highlighted the importance of promoting India-Sri Lanka investment partnership including in the fields of infrastructure, connectivity, renewable energy and deepening economic linkages between the two countries”.

Kwatra also met his Sri Lankan counterpart Aruni Wijewardena, and they agreed to work to strengthen diplomatic engagement and undertake a bilateral visit at an early date.

Over the years, India has provided development assistance worth more than $5 billion to Sri Lanka, with more than $600 million as grants, including assistance for the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity Project.

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