External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will on Monday meet the Sri Lankan leadership, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, even as the country battles a grave economic crisis with help, including from India that recently extended $2.4 billion.
Mr. Jaishankar will also interact with prominent members of the Opposition, Tamil and Muslim political parties, ahead of his participation in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). The Indian official was received at the airport by four Sri Lankan Ministers, leading the country’s energy, highways, tourism and aviation sectors.
Over the last few months, India and Sri Lanka have been engaging intensely and at high levels, discussing possible Indian assistance to help Sri Lanka cope with an unprecedented economic meltdown, marked by a severe dollar crunch and persisting shortages of essential supplies in the import-reliant island nation.
Sri Lanka has also sought more assistance from China, as well as the International Monetary Fund. India has repeatedly asserted that it would stand by Sri Lanka in times of need, although some sections within Sri Lanka voice scepticism over New Delhi “targeting strategic projects” in return for its emergency financial assistance. Since January, India and Sri Lanka have inked several key agreements such as the joint development of the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms in the east, and for setting up renewable power projects in the north and east of Sri Lanka, involving the National Thermal Power Corporation and private investment from the Adani Group.
India and Sri Lanka are discussing further collaboration in the spheres of defence, religion, culture, tourism and technology, according to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage (Retd.). “The agreements that will likely be signed [during Mr. Jaishankar’s visit] were on the table for quite some time, they did not come up just now. They have been under discussion for a while,” he told The Hindu.
“We must really appreciate what India is doing at the moment. This is a very difficult time for Sri Lanka and India, keeping to their neighbourhood first policy, have come forward to support Sri Lanka. So that’s something we really have to appreciate,” he said.
Mr. Jaishankar was in the Maldives over the weekend, and called the partnership one of “great consequence” and a “real force of stability” and prosperity for the Indian Ocean region. He inaugurated the National College for Policing and Law Enforcement in the Maldives’s Addu city — one of India’s largest grant funded projects in the island nation — in the presence of Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.