India will encourage greater investments in Sri Lanka’s economy, especially in areas of energy, tourism and infrastructure, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday, as he expressed India’s solidarity with the debt-ridden Island nation during its “difficult moments”.
IMAGE: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Colombo, January 20, 2023. Photograph: ANI on Twitter
Jaishankar, who is in Colombo on a two-day visit, called on President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday morning.
“My primary purpose to visit Colombo is to express India’s solidarity with Sri Lanka during these difficult moments,” Jaishankar said in a press statement.
“We’ve had a very good discussion that follows up on my meetings with my counterpart and other Sri Lankan ministers yesterday (Thursday) evening,” he said.
India has extended about USD 4 billion in terms of credits and rollovers to help Sri Lanka get through an economic crisis.
“For us, it was an issue of the neighbourhood first and not leaving a partner to fend for themselves,” Jaishankar said.
India felt strongly that Sri Lanka’s creditors must take proactive steps to facilitate its recovery, he said.
“India decided not to wait on others, but to do what we believe is right. We extended financing assurances to the IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward,” he added.
“We extended financing assurances to the IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward. Our expectation is that this will not only strengthen Sri Lanka’s position but ensure that all bilateral creditors are dealt with equally,” he added.
Sri Lanka, which is trying to secure a USD 2.9 billion bridge loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was negotiating to get financial assurances from its major creditors — China, Japan and India — which is the requisite for Colombo to get the bailout package.
The IMF bailout has been put on a halt as Sri Lanka pursues talks with creditors to meet the global lender’s condition for the facility.
“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,” Jaishankar said.
“India will encourage greater investments in the Sri Lankan economy, especially in core areas like energy, tourism, and infrastructure. We count on the government of Sri Lanka to provide a more business-friendly environment to create a powerful pull factor.
He said energy security is today one of Sri Lanka’s most serious challenges.
Sri Lanka has enormous renewable energy potential that can become a sustainable source of revenue, Jaishankar said, adding that Trincomalee has the capability to emerge as an energy hub.
“In its support for Sri Lanka, India has prepared to be a reliable partner on such initiatives. We have today agreed in principle on a renewable energy framework that will take this cooperation forward,” he said.
Calling tourism the lifeblood of the Sri Lankan economy, he said “Indian tourists are expressing their positive sentiments for Sri Lanka in a very, very practical manner by coming here.”`
“India has always supported both the political and economic stability of Sri Lanka,” Jaishankar said.
He said President Wickremesinghe briefed him on the question of political devolution.
“I shared with him our considered view that the full implementation of the 13th Amendment and early conduct of provincial elections are critical”.
“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.
India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987. The 13A provides for the devolution of power to the Tamil community.
He also handed over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to President Wickremesinghe to visit India at an early date to discuss how our partnership can facilitate Sri Lanka’s strong recovery.