With China relentlessly pursuing its agenda of expanding its footprint and influence in Sri Lanka, exploiting the situation resulting from the economic crisis in the island nation, New Delhi has decided to give a fillip to the ongoing efforts to help Colombo recover from the current financial mess. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Monday held “productive” talks with his visiting Sri Lankan counterpart, G.L. Peiris, and discussed with him ways that can salvage Colombo from the present unprecedented economic crisis, sources told The Daily Guardian. Jaishankar and Peiris focused “on steps to enhance Colombo’s energy security, boost bilateral trade and investment, and the contentious fishermen issue”. “Jaishankar also explained to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister how tourism can help the island nation tide over the economic crisis. He also assured the
Sri Lankan minister of all possible help and cooperation,” sources added. “Several investment avenues were discussed between the two ministers, with India showing keenness to go ahead with more investments in Sri Lanka,” sources said.
The talks came days after India extended a $500 million credit line to Sri Lanka to help it purchase petroleum products, as the island nation has been reeling under a severe foreign exchange and energy crisis. “Productive talks with Sri Lankan FM G L Peiris. Discussed economic and investment initiatives that will strengthen Sri Lanka at this time. Also focused on additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security,” EAM Jaishankar tweeted. Peiris arrived in Delhi on Sunday on a three-day official visit. “We will mark 75 years of our independence and diplomatic relations in a suitable way,” the EAM said in another tweet.
“That Sri Lanka has allowed China to develop strategic assets like ports and islands in what causes unease in India was touched upon by the EAM,” MEA sources told The Daily Guardian. India has on several occasions diplomatically tried to explain to Sri Lanka how it is caught in a debt-trap diplomacy by China, says a diplomat. “When EAM Jaishankar held interactions with his Sri Lankan counterpart today, he expressed his views on that as well,” he adds. There is no denying that Colombo needs Delhi’s support and Peiris mentioned that.
Recently, the Washington-based group Global Strat View said, and rightly so, that the island nation had to rethink seriously to save its economy, which analysts say have fallen into China’s debt-trap policy. Many critics believe that Chinese debt trap policy is the primary cause of the country’s financial crisis. A diplomat said that New Delhi offered investment initiatives to Sri Lanka that would strengthen the economy of the island nation. The Sri Lankan FM is expected to meet Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. He is also likely to meet the National Security Adviser as well. It is worth mentioning that Monday’s meeting came nearly a week after India extended the $400 million currency swap facility with Lanka for two months. Also, India has recently provided a Line of Credit worth $500 million to Sri Lanka for the purchase of fuel.
Referring to the fishermen issue, Jaishankar said it was agreed that bilateral mechanisms for it should meet early and that the importance of people-to-people ties through greater connectivity was noted. “Exchanged views on the fishermen issue and agreed that bilateral mechanisms should meet early. Recognised the importance of greater tourism for economic recovery. Also noted the importance of P2P linkages through greater connectivity,” he said. The fishermen issue is a contentious one in ties between the two sides.