As the new Sri Lankan president looks at pulling the country out of its economic crisis, India on Thursday said it will continue to assist the island nation and support its people in their quest for stability and prosperity through democratic means. The comments by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) came a day after Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new president, amid hopes for recovery from the unprecedented economic crisis that triggered a massive political turmoil. “We have been at the forefront of extending economic assistance to Sri Lanka as per what they require,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a weekly media briefing. He said India extended a significant amount of assistance to Sri Lanka at its “time of need, adding “we will continue to stand by the people of Sri Lanka in whatever manner we can”.
“We will stand with the people of Sri Lanka in their quest for stability and economic recovery through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework,” Bagchi said. “I think this transition happened through the constitutional framework is a clear positive indicator of that,” he said.
Wickremesinghe, 73, won a parliamentary ballot on Wednesday, days after his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country amid escalating protests against his government over the economic crisis. “As they now have a new president, they will probably take more steps ahead to set up a government. They also have discussions with the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Let’s see what is required,” Bagchi said when asked whether India was considering extending further economic assistance to the island nation. “We have extended assistance in various ways and some of it is not fully utilised while some of it has been utilised. We will continue to stand with the people of Sri Lanka in whatever way we can and that would sum up how we look at it (situation),” the MEA spokesperson said.
Separately, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said in Rajya Sabha that India continues to assist Sri Lanka in its economic development as also support to overcome its economic challenges. “In January 2022, India extended a USD 400 million currency swap to Sri Lanka under the SAARC Framework and deferred successive Asian Clearing Union settlements till July 6, 2022. A line of credit of USD 500 million was extended to Sri Lanka for importing fuel from India,” he said. “In addition, India has extended a credit facility of USD 1 billion for the procurement of food, medicines and other essential items from India. Humanitarian assistance was also provided to Sri Lanka by gifting essential medicines worth about Rs 6 crore, 15,000 litres of kerosene oil and USD 55 million line of credit for procurement of urea fertilizer,” he said.
Muraleedharan said the government of Tamil Nadu is also providing Sri Lanka rice, milk powder and medicines worth USD 16 million.