India, Sri Lanka to finalise $1-billion line of credit on Thursday
India’s financial aid to Sri Lanka is to help President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government cope with the island nation’s worst economic crisis in decades.
NEW DELHI: India and Sri Lanka are expected to finalise a $1-billion line of credit on Thursday to help President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government cope with the island nation’s worst economic crisis in decades.
The financial aid package to help Sri Lanka make emergency purchases of food, medicines and essential items is the focus of finance minister Basil Rajapaksa’s two-day visit to New Delhi from Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said.
On Wednesday, Basil Rajapaksa met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said India “would continue to stand with the friendly people of Sri Lanka”, according to a statement from the external affairs ministry. Modi also spoke about Sri Lanka’s central role in India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy and its “Security and Growth for All in the Region” doctrine.
Rajapaksa is visiting India at a time when the Sri Lankan government has been rocked by protests in Colombo amid demands for the president’s resignation for his handling of the economic crisis. Tens of thousands of people, led by supporters of the opposition United People’s Force party, gathered outside the President’s office in Colombo on Tuesday.
This is Rajapaksa’s second trip to the Indian capital since December and he has played a key role in putting together a four-pillar package of Indian support to cope with the crisis. Over the past few months, the Indian side has provided a $500-million line of credit for purchasing fuel and a currency swap of $400 million under the Saarc facility. It has also deferred the payment of $515 million due to the Asian Clearing Union.
During the meeting held at Modi’s office in Parliament House, Rajapaksa thanked the prime minister for the assistance India has provided to Sri Lanka at this critical time. The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues, including agriculture, renewable energy, digitalisation, tourism and fisheries, according to a readout from the Sri Lankan high commission. Rajapaksa was accompanied by Sri Lanka’s high commissioner Milinda Moragoda.
Modi and Rajapaksa had a “comprehensive discussion” on the fisheries issue and “recognised its complex and multidimensional aspects including humane treatment of fishermen, livelihood, enforcement, ecology of the ocean [and] early release of arrested fishermen and their boats”, the readout said.
The two leaders “agreed on the urgent need to find a lasting solution to this complex issue”, it added.
The promotion of the Ramayana trail in Sri Lanka and the Buddhist circuit in India, including in Gujarat, was highlighted in order to attract a large number of Indian tourists to Sri Lanka. The memorandum of understanding on tourism signed by Sri Lanka and the state of Gujarat in 2009 could serve as a template to promote tourism at the state level, the readout added.
Modi and Rajapaksa also discussed Sri Lanka’s decision to move towards organic agriculture, and Modi highlighted the advantages of natural farming and India’s experience in developing techniques and products, including nano-fertilisers, which could be of relevance to Sri Lanka.