India has agreed to extend a helping hand to Sri Lanka as it tackles a multitude of economic problems created by the  COVID-19 pandemic.

But while making offers of help it has also subtly laid down the condition that there should be manifest progress in a number of Indianassisted projects in a variety of fields, so that both sides gain from the cooperation. A mechanism, albeit informal, has been set up to coordinate activities in regard to agreed projects.      

This was the outcome of the meetings Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa had with his counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, Foreign Minister S.Jaishankar, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardip Singh Puri and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval over December 1 and 2.

According to the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi, the two sides discussed four pillars for short and medium-term cooperation in this regard. These are:

i)        Food and health security package on an urgent basis that would envisage an extension of a line of credit to cover the import of food, medicines and other essential items from India to Sri Lanka.

ii)        Energy security package that would include a line of credit to cover import of fuel from India, and an early modernization of Trincomalee Tank Farm.

iii)       Offer of a Currency Swap to help Sri Lanka address the current balance of payment issues.

iv)       Facilitating Indian investments in different sectors in Sri Lanka that would contribute to growth and expand employment.  This will build on recent trends in that respect.  

It was agreed that modalities to realize these objectives would be finalized early, within a mutually agreed timeline.

Minister Rajapaksa and Ministers Sitharamanand Jaishankar agreed to open direct lines of communication and to be in direct and regular contact with each other in order to coordinate the above initiative.

Both sides expressed satisfaction over the evolving trajectory of the bilateral relationship. During the discussions, they identified ways and means through which the existing bilateral economic relationship between the two countries could be further broadened and deepened.

Finance Minister Rajapaksa briefed the Indian side of the economic situation in Sri Lanka and his Government’s approach to addressing post-COVID challenges. The Indian Ministers expressed India’s solidarity with Sri Lanka at this juncture.  They reiterated that India has always stood by Sri Lanka and in the current situation would be guided by its Neighborhood First policy.



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