Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said today that India has extended financing assurances to the IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward because India felt strongly that Sri Lanka’s creditors must take proactive steps to facilitate its recovery.
“India decided not to wait on others but to do what we believe is right. Our expectation is that this will not only strengthen Sri Lanka’s position but ensure that all bilateral creditors are dealt with equally,” Jaishankar said in his remarks in presence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and foreign Minister Ali Sabry today.
He said India will encourage greater investments in the Sri Lankan economy, especially in the core areas like energy, tourism and infrastructure.
“We also know that Sri Lanka’s pathway is one of a strong economic recovery propelled by greater investments. Here too, I have a clear message that I will be sharing with the business community. 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 realized by policy makers here,” he said.
Indian External Affairs Minister said his primary purpose of coming to Colombo at this time was to express India’s solidarity with Sri Lanka during these difficult moments.
Last year, India extended about US $ 4 billion in terms of credits and roll overs to help Sri Lanka get through an economic crisis. “For us, it was an issue of ‘Neighbourhood First’ and not leaving a partner to fend for themselves,” he said.
During his remarks, Jaishankar said he has handed over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to President Wickremesinghe to visit India at an early date to discuss how India’s partnership can facilitate Sri Lanka’s strong recovery.
He said India has always supported both the political and economic stability of Sri Lanka.
He said the President briefed him 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,” he stated.
Dr. Jaishankar also spoke of the need to pay special attention to the requirements of the Indian origin Tamil community.
The minister said that one of Sri Lanka’s most serious challenges today is energy security.
“A search for solutions must necessarily encompass the larger region. Only then will Sri Lanka get the full benefit of scale. 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. In its support for Sri Lanka,” he said.
Dr. Jaishankar said India is prepared to be a reliable partner on such initiatives. “We have today agreed in-principle on a renewable energy framework that would take this cooperation forward.”
Although tourism is the life blood of the Sri Lankan economy, he said that there are many more steps that need to be taken to make it sustainable.
“I note that Indian tourists are expressing their positive sentiments for Sri Lanka in a 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 utilize UPI would be most helpful in this regard,” he said.
In a turbulent world, it is essential that India and Sri Lanka steady their trade. The use of rupee settlement for trade is obviously in our mutual interest, he said.
While thanking the President for receiving him, Jaishankar underlined that India is a reliable neighbour, a trustworthy partner, one who is prepared to go the extra mile when Sri Lanka feels the need.
“My presence here today is a statement about Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to ‘Neighbourhood First’. We will stand by Sri Lanka in this hour of need and are confident that Sri Lanka will overcome the challenges that it currently faces,” he concluded.(Darshana Sanjeewa Balasuriya)