Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta
Last Updated: January 21, 2023, 01:07 IST
India has extended a debt restructuring plan to Sri Lanka. Announcing the development, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said that India was the first creditor nation of Sri Lanka to support debt restructuring and convey financing assurances to the International Monetary Fund in order to clear the way forward for Sri Lanka and in securing the IMF programme.
India extended a massive financial support of USD 4 billion to Sri Lanka last year to tide over its volatile economy. While underlining that India is “prepared to go the extra mile when Sri Lanka feels the need”, Jaishankar added that India will encourage greater investments in the Sri Lankan economy in several key sectors. “We count on the government of Sri Lanka to provide a more business-friendly environment to create a powerful pull factor. I am confident that the gravity of the situation is realised by policymakers here,” he said.
During a press statement alongside Sri Lankan foreign minister Ali Sabry, Jaishankar also said that he has raised the issue of special attention to the requirements of the Indian-origin Tamil community.
“India has always supported both the political and economic stability of Sri Lanka. The President briefed me on the question of political devolution and his thinking. I shared with him our considered view that the full implementation of the 13th amendment and early conduct of provincial elections are critical in this regard. 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.
Jaishankar was in Sri Lanka on January 19-20 in his fourth bilateral visit to the island nation as India’s external affairs minister. During the visit, he called on President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and had detailed discussions with his counterpart Ali Sabry. The delegation-level meeting hosted by the foreign minister of Sri Lanka included ministers of ports, shipping and aviation, health, industries, investment promotion, power, and energy.
Jaishankar stressed that his presence in Sri Lanka at a time when the country was going through multiple challenges “sends a clear and strong message of continued support from the Government and the people of India to the people of Sri Lanka”.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Jaishankar virtually inaugurated a building for the Kandyan Dancing Academy in Pallekele whose foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka in May 2017. Around 350 housing units built with Government of India’s grant assistance in Galle, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, and Badulla districts were also handed over in a virtual format on the occasion. Jaishankar ceremonially handed over 50 buses supplied under an ongoing credit line for the supply of 500 buses to Bandula Gunawardena, minister of transport and highways of Sri Lanka.
The external affairs minister appreciated the steps undertaken for the resumption of Jaffna-Colombo flights and expressed hope that ferry services between India and Sri Lanka will resume at the earliest. India continues to be the single-largest source of tourists for Sri Lanka. “Tourism is the lifeblood of the Sri Lankan economy. I note that Indian tourists are expressing their positive sentiments for Sri Lanka in a very very practical manner by coming here. But there are many more steps we can take to make this sustainable. Strengthening connectivity and promoting travel is therefore a very high priority for all of us. Definitely, encouraging Indian tourists to make RuPay payments and utilise UPI would be most helpful in this regard,” he stated.
Jaishankar discussed various measures for promoting religious tourism between the two countries, noting that initiatives undertaken towards promotion of trade and tourism between the two nations could pave the way for greater interaction between their people. The minister conveyed that the Government of India is positively considering the request from the senior leadership of Sri Lanka for the exposition of the sacred Kapilavastu Relics of Buddha in Sri Lanka this year.
He conveyed to the President of Sri Lanka greetings from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and handed over an invitation from him to visit India at an early mutually convenient date. Jaishankar also called on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the visit.
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