Ranil Wickremesinghe bats for Global South during Iranian President’s visit

The power and irrigation project is expected to generate and add 120 MW to the national grid

Updated - April 24, 2024 10:13 pm IST

Published - April 24, 2024 10:08 pm IST - COLOMBO

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Colombo.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Colombo. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Global South must strive for their strength and autonomy, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday, even as he thanked his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi, who inaugurated a key power and irrigation project in the island nation.

Expressing “gratitude to Iran for their technical support”, Mr. Wickremesinghe emphasised that without Iran’s assistance, Sri Lanka would not be able to execute the crucial $514 million irrigation project. Consequent to the project, around 6,000 hectares of agricultural land in three southern and central districts will receive water supply, his office said. Further, the project is expected to generate and add 120 MW to the national grid.

Mr. Wickremesinghe’s pitch for greater autonomy for the Global South came amid media reports in Sri Lanka of “Western pressure” on Colombo. Mr. Raisi landed in Sri Lanka ten days after Iran launched an unprecedented missile and drone attack on Israel, retaliating against the April 1 air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus. While the two sides appear to have backed off from a regional conflict for now, tensions remain high, with Israel continuing its ceaseless attack on Gaza. During his just concluded three-day visit to Pakistan, President Raisi warned Israel that “nothing will be left of the Zionist regime” if Tel Aviv attacks Iran again.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government announced the signing of five agreements with Iran. Sri Lanka has pledged to expand bilateral ties and development cooperation with the West Asian country and expressed interest in tapping its expertise in the energy, water, agriculture, nanotechnology, pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. In February this year, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visited Colombo and expressed satisfaction over the barter trade agreement under which Iran supplies crude oil to Sri Lanka, in return for tea. Iran agreed to offset payment of $250 million for its crude oil, by importing tea from Sri Lanka. The two countries also agreed to explore trading in Asian currencies instead of U.S. dollars.

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