The economic crisis has gone beyond worse in Sri Lanka with queues for essential commodities getting longer and no country except its closest neighbour India extending food, medicine and fuel supplies, and financial help, to the island nation of 2.2 crore people. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is fearing the worst crisis and has hinted at a possibility of an acute shortage of food in September.
To understand the ground situation and find ways to help a sinking friend, India is dispatching a high-level delegation led by Chief Economic Advisor V Anantha Nageswaran to Sri Lanka on June 23. According to a leading English newspaper ‘Daily Mirror’, the delegation will stay in the country only for three hours and hold talks with both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Wickremesinghe.
The visit is a result of the meetings held by Sri Lankan envoy Milinda Moragoda with External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi on June 20. India is currently in the process of finalising another credit line of US$ 500 million for Sri Lanka to purchase oil. The country is undergoing its worst ever economic crisis with people queuing up for miles at filling stations.
India-Sri Lanka relations were marked by such specially arranged visits for short durations during the latter part of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.
In the last two years, India has helped Sri Lanka in many ways. During the height of Covid-19, India had sent medicines including vaccines. India has so far helped to the tune of over US$ 3 billion.
Two weeks ago, China, who is Sri Lanka’s another biggest donor and investor, in a rare gesture, openly praised India’s help to the island nation during the current crisis.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference that China ‘commends’ India for efforts to mitigate the crisis in Sri Lanka.
“We have taken note that the Indian government has also done a lot in this regard. We commend those efforts. China is ready to work with India and the rest of the international community to help Sri Lanka and other developing countries experiencing difficulty to pull through the hardship as early as possible,” Lijian said during a media interaction.
“The Chinese government will do its utmost and make full use of the channels available to deliver help to the Sri Lankan society,” he replied to a question over a remark made by Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka is actively pursuing other friendly nations such as Japan, Canada, Arab nations and Australia besides the International Monetary Fund and World Bank controlled by the USA.
The Sri Lankan Cabinet already cleared a key amendment to the Constitution, which gives greater powers to the Prime Minister and reduces the clout of executive presidency. Parliament is likely to pass it in a week or two.
Meanwhile, protests demanding the ouster of Gotabaya Rajapaksa (the only remaining Rajapaksa in power) is gaining momentum.
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