India did not wait for other bilateral creditors but did “what is right” for Sri Lanka’s economic recovery, visiting External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Friday, following talks with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo.
“We felt strongly that Sri Lanka’s creditors must take proactive steps to facilitate its recovery. India decided not to wait for others but to do what we believe is right. We extended financing assurances to IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward,” Mr. Jaishankar said.
On January 16, India sent written financing assurances to the IMF, becoming the first bilateral creditor of the island nation to officially support its crucial debt restructure programme after last year’s economic meltdown. The Fund’s provisional $2.9 billion package will be cleared only after Sri Lanka’s official creditors — China, Japan and India — have provided adequate financing assurances.
The decision, Mr. Jaishankar said, was a reassertion of India’s belief in the principle of “neighbourhood first”, and “not leaving a partner to fend for themselves,” which also drove the nearly-4-billion-dollar assistance extended last year, by way of credits and roll overs. India is “a reliable neighbour, a trustworthy partner, one who is prepared to go the extra mile when Sri Lanka feels the need”, he said and extended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to Mr. Wickremesinghe to visit India at an “early date”.
Speaking at the joint media briefing, where President Wickremesinghe was also present, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry expressed “profound gratitude” for India’s “enormous support” last year that “helped Sri Lanka regain some measure of economic and financial stability.”
Going forward, India will encourage greater investments in the Sri Lankan economy, especially in “core areas like energy, tourism and infrastructure,” Minister Jaishankar said, pointing to energy security as one of Sri Lanka’s “most serious challenges.” “A search for solutions must necessarily encompass the larger region. Only then will Sri Lanka get the full benefit of scale,” he said, adding, “This country has enormous renewable energy potential that can become a sustainable source of revenue. It has the capability as well for Trincomalee to emerge as an energy hub.” The two countries have, “in principle”, agreed on a renewable energy framework. A bilateral agreement on raising the limit of the High Impact Community Development Project (HICDP) implemented in Sri Lanka with the support of the Government of India was signed during the External Affairs Minister’s visit, a statement from the President’s office said.
Further, Mr. Jaishankar said he shared India’s “considered view that the full implementation of the 13th amendment and early conduct of provincial elections are critical” in regard to political devolution. “Durable efforts towards reconciliation are in the interests of all sections in Sri Lanka. I also spoke of the need to pay special attention to the requirements of the Indian origin Tamil community,” he said.
Apart from meeting with several Sri Lankan ministers, Mr. Jaishankar held discussions with senior politicians in government and opposition, including Leader of Opposition Sajith Premadasa, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Tamil leaders from the north and east, as well as those representing the Malaiya (hill country) Tamils.