Focus on joint projects during Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s India visit 

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe is scheduled to call on President Droupadi Murmu, and meet PM Narendra Modi on July 21

July 21, 2023 06:15 am | Updated 08:39 am IST - COLOMBO

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe being received by V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs, on his arrival at the IGI Airport in New Delhi on July 20, 2023. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia via PTI

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe being received by V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs, on his arrival at the IGI Airport in New Delhi on July 20, 2023. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia via PTI

 Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on July 20 arrived in India for an official visit, a year after he became President of the Island nation that witnessed its worst economic crisis last year.

Mr. Wickremesinghe is scheduled to call on Indian President Droupadi Murmu and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 21, according to a press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The visit of the Sri Lankan leader appears geared towards firming up much-discussed bilateral projects in the energy sector and initiatives aimed at enhancing connectivity. During Sri Lanka’s dramatic economic crash last year, India extended emergency financial support of about $4 billion, providing relief at a time when citizens struggled amid critical shortages of essentials. Sri Lanka had acknowledged India’s role in helping Colombo secure a nearly $3-billion package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

India is also part of an official creditor’s committee, with Japan and other Paris Club members, and is currently negotiating a debt treatment plan with Sri Lanka. China, Japan and India are the Island’s top three bilateral lenders, and President Wickremesinghe is expected to visit Beijing later this year for talks.

Also Read | ‘India’s timely help ensured Sri Lanka’s economic survival during crisis

Joint projects

New Delhi and Colombo have been exploring possible joint ventures, including an integrated energy grid, a proposal that has been under discussion for years. Sri Lanka recently convened a meeting with Indian officials in Colombo, on a proposal by the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for an oil distribution pipeline connecting Nagapattinam, Colombo, and the strategic city of Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s east coast, where India is helping restore World War II-era oil tanks.

Further, Sri Lanka is looking to draw more tourists from India, its top source market currently, to boost its foreign reserves after the country declared bankruptcy in the wake of last year’s balance of payments problem. President Ranil Wickremesinghe, addressing the Colombo-based Indian CEO Forum recently, said that Indian currency would soon be accepted within Sri Lanka, a move that is expected to boost both trade and tourism. Sri Lanka has sought greater private-sector investment from Indian companies.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will raise concerns of its northern Tamil fishermen, whose livelihoods are severely affected by Indian fishing vessels using the environmentally destructive bottom-trawling method in the Palk Strait, officials said. The pending political solution to Sri Lanka’s Tamils is likely to figure in the high-level meetings, sources said. Significantly, President Wickremesinghe recently met the Tamil political leadership and offered to implement the 13th Amendment —which followed the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 and assures a measure of power to Provinces — without the police powers enshrined in it. The TNA said it “categorically rejected” the proposal.

On July 20 evening, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar held a one-on-one meeting with President Wickremesinghe, the Presidential Media Division in Colombo said.

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