India to stand with Sri Lankan people in crisis: MEA

‘We have been supportive of Sri Lanka, are trying to help and have always been helpful,’ says Minister

July 10, 2022 06:08 pm | Updated July 11, 2022 04:12 pm IST - New Delhi

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. File

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. File

India continues to “stand with the people of Sri Lanka”, the Indian government said in its first reaction to the latest political crisis in Colombo, a day after mobs overran the Presidential palace and set the Prime Minister’s private home on fire, forcing both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Ranil Wickremsinghe to flee to undisclosed locations in the country. Both leaders have announced their resignations. The main Opposition Congress party also issued a statement on Sunday, expressing “solidarity” with the Sri Lankan people and urging India and the international community to assist the island nation in the throes of an economic storm and severe food and fuel shortages.

“We are aware of the many challenges that Sri Lanka and its people have been facing, and we have stood with the Sri Lankan people as they have tried to overcome this difficult period,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in response to questions from reporters.

“India stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established institutions and constitutional framework,” he added, stressing that India had already announced support of $3.8 billion to Sri Lanka in 2022, in line with the government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy. On Sunday, Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Gopal Baglay met with Sri Lankan Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, as India handed over 44,000 metric tonnes of urea under a credit line extended to help Sri Lankan farmers.

India’s official position mirrors the stand taken by the government in May, after the resignation of former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet after failing to contain the economic downturn and months of massive protests along Colombo’s sea face. As public anger has grown, New Delhi has attempted a three-pronged approach, of empathising with the plight of the people and providing credit lines, food, fuel and medicines, keeping a distance from the Sri Lankan leadership, and also keeping a low profile otherwise with few comments on the situation. The government is also watching the situation developing this week, with efforts underway by the Sri Lankan Opposition to corral an all-party government that would be acceptable to the protestors.

"We have been supportive of Sri Lanka, are trying to help and have always been helpful. They are working through their problem, we will see what happens," External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told journalists after landing in Thiruvananthapuram. When asked if New Delhi was worried about an influx of Sri Lankans to India amidst the crisis, Mr. Jaishankar said, "There is no refugee crisis right now."

The Congress party’s acting president Sonia Gandhi also expressed concern over the “enormous hardships and distress among the people” in Sri Lanka there.” “The Congress party expresses its solidarity with Sri Lanka and its people in this moment of grave crisis and hopes they will be able to overcome it. We hope that India will continue to assist the people and government of Sri Lanka as they deal with the difficulties of the current situation,” Ms. Gandhi said in a statement.

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