Sri Lanka invites Indian investments in infra and energy as Jaishankar holds a virtual meet with finance minister Basil Rajapaksa.
New Delhi: In a significant diplomatic gesture, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Saturday (January 15) held a virtual meeting with Finance Minister of Sri Lanka Basil Rajapaksa and assured all possible support to the island nation.
"Dr Jaishankar conveyed that India has always stood with Sri Lanka, and will continue to support Sri Lanka in all possible ways for overcoming the economic and other challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic," an M.E.A. statement said here. It further said, "As close friends and maritime neighbours, both India and Sri Lanka stand to gain from closer economic interlinkages."
Sri Lanka is reportedly experiencing a huge foreign exchange crisis, which also increased further by its inability to meet the monetary obligations of China on several projects. One such project was the Hambantota Port that forced Colombo to incur losses instead of generating revenue. In addition, the Belt and Road Initiative by China also allowed Sri Lanka to borrow commercial loans on infrastructure projects without strict conditionality, ultimately luring the island country into massive forex debt. These are largely seen as "debt-trap diplomacy" of Beijing.
The interaction between Dr Jaishankar and Sri Lankan finance minister Rajapaksa on Saturday in virtual mode took place days after the latter's visit to India last month. Dr Jaishankar conveyed greetings to the Sri Lankan Finance Minister and the Government and the people of Sri Lanka on his own behalf and on behalf of the Government and the people of India for the year 2022 and on the occasion of the festival of Pongal celebrated both in India and Sri Lanka.
Both the Ministers "positively noted" that extension of US$400 million to Sri Lanka under the SAARC currency swap arrangement and deferral of A.C.U. Settlement of USD 515.2 million by two months, which would assist Sri Lanka.
The two Ministers reviewed the progress in extending the Indian credit facility of USD 1 billion for importing food, essential items and medicine and USD 500mn for importing fuel from India.
Mr Rajapaksa recalled India's longstanding cooperation with Sri Lanka and deeply appreciated the gestures of support. He welcomed Indian investments in Sri Lanka in several important spheres, including ports, infrastructure, energy, renewable energy, power and manufacturing, and assured that a conducive environment would be provided to encourage such investments.
"In this context, both Ministers noted that the recent steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka for jointly modernizing Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms will boost the confidence of investors, apart from enhancing Sri Lanka's energy security."
The M.E.A. release also said that Dr Jaishankar brought up Indian fishers detained in Sri Lanka. He urged the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the early release of the detained fishermen on humanitarian considerations. The release said the two Ministers agreed to remain in close touch for guiding mutually beneficial bilateral economic cooperation towards long-term economic partnership for shared progress and prosperity.