Amid the economic turbulence in Sri Lanka, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, who is currently in the neighbouring nation, called on top leadership, including President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Indian minister assured of New Delhi's “continued commitment” to assist the debt-ridden island nation in its economic recovery.
Interestingly, the country is celebrating its 75th Independence Day on February 4, amid a series of allegations of spending over 300 million Sri Lankan rupees at a time when the country is already seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Notably, from the Indian side, Muraleedharan is visiting Colombo to represent the country at Sri Lanka's 75th Independence Day celebrations. Muraleedharan called on President Wickremesinghe and discussed the “diverse aspects” of the growing bilateral partnership between the two countries. He also extended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s greetings to Wickremesinghe on Sri Lanka’s 75th Independence Day.
“Pleasure to have called on the President of Sri Lanka H.E.@RW at Colombo. Conveyed greetings of PM @narendramodiji on the 75th Independence Day of Sri Lanka,” he tweeted. “Discussed diverse aspects of the growing bilateral partnership,” he wrote.
He also met foreign minister Sabry and extended his Independence Day greetings. “Delighted to meet FM of Sri Lanka H.E.@alisabrypc at Colombo. Conveyed greetings on their 75th Independence Day. Highlighted India’s continued commitment to assist Sri Lanka on its economic recovery,” he tweeted.
Earlier, Muraleedharan participated in the Independence Day celebrations of Sri Lanka, which were also attended by other foreign dignitaries. "This milestone coincides with 75 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries. India is always a dependable partner and a reliable friend of Sri Lanka," he tweeted. Muraleedharan also interacted with the vibrant Indian diaspora in Sri Lanka.
"Appreciated their contributions in strengthening economic & people to people ties between India & Sri Lanka. Their role is even more significant today when Sri Lanka is on its path to economic recovery," he tweeted.
The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) comprise Sindhis, Borahs, Gujaratis, Memons, Parsis, Malayalis and Telugu-speaking persons who have settled down in Sri Lanka (most of them after partition) and are engaged in various business ventures.
According to unofficial statistics, it is estimated that around 14,000 Indian expatriates are living in Sri Lanka, according to the Indian mission in Colombo. Muraleedharan also prayed to The Buddha at the sacred Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo. "Offered his respects to Ven Dr Kirinde Assaji Thero," the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka tweeted. Assaji Thero is the Chief Incumbent of Gangaramaya Temple. The minister highlighted the close civilisational ties between India and Sri Lanka which are manifested, including through Buddhism. India has been a major provider of assistance to debt-ridden Sri Lanka.
Last year, India extended USD 3.9 billion in support to Sri Lanka to deal with the economic crisis. New Delhi recently gave assurance to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restructure the country's debt to secure a USD 2.9 billion bridge loan. Sri Lanka 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. During mid-2022 Sri Lanka faced the worst economic crisis since independence which led to months-long public protests leading to a political crisis.
Shortages of essentials due to the forex crisis forced people onto the streets demanding the resignation of the then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In April last year, Sri Lanka declared its first-ever debt default in its history.
(With inputs from PTI)
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