He has closely worked with India on several development projects over the years. Now, the technocrat and lawyer is faced with the task of bringing back stability in the country and negotiating a bailout package with the IMF.
India on Wednesday said that it will continue to be ‘supportive’ of Sri Lanka, which elected former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as its new President.
Wickremesinghe was elected by the Parliament as the eighth executive President of Sri Lanka, just days after former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned.
Sri Lanka has been in the midst of a deep and unprecedented economic crisis that sparked massive anti-government protests, leading to its president quitting after fleeing the country to Maldives and then to Singapore.
The economic crisis stems from a huge debt that Sri Lanka amassed up over the years. As a result of the economic crisis, the island nation is now struggling to buy essentials such as food, fuel and medicine.
Backing the parliamentary processes and democratic institutions in the country, the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka said it would continue to support its “close friend and neighbour” in its quest for stability and economic recovery. Since the beginning of this year, India has extended $4 billion in aid to help Sri Lanka tide over the economic crisis.
Earlier, India denied media reports that New Delhi was making efforts to politically influence the Presidential polls in Sri Lanka.
Relations with India
Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has served as the prime minister five times, has been well disposed towards India for decades. The veteran politician is not known to favour China and its military ambitions, Economic Times reported. He has closely worked with India on several development projects over the years. Now, the technocrat and lawyer is faced with the task of bringing back stability in the country and negotiating a bailout package with the IMF.
After being elected as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in May, Wickremesinghe had said he looked forward to working closely with India and thanked the neighbouring country for its economic assistance.
“I want a closer relationship and I want to thank Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi,” PTI quoted Wickremesinghe as saying.
However, on June 22, Wickremesinghe had informed the Sri Lankan Parliament that the financial assistance provided by India was not “charitable donations” and the country would have to repay the loans.
He said unless Sri Lanka came up with a plan to repay the money, India would not be able to continuously support the island nation.
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“Even their (India’s) assistance has its limits,” he had said.
Slogans against India
Meanwhile, in the recent protests, while demonstrators in Sri Lanka mostly raised slogans against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, they also raised chants against India, BBC reported.
Anti-Indian slogans such as “Don't sell the country to India and the US” and “India don't exploit Sri Lanka's situation” were heard during demonstrations.
New Delhi’s decision to offer assistance to Sri Lanka has been of strategic importance as it gave the country a leverage over its neighbour, BBC reported quoting experts.
The two countries agreed in January to jointly operate 61 giant oil tanks built during World War II after India offered the initial line of credit. India has been trying for over 30 years to gain access to the British-era facility in the north-eastern Trincomalee harbour which will help it to store strategic oil reserves.
Earlier in September 2022, Indian conglomerate Adani group won a majority stake to build and operate the Western Container Terminal at the strategic Colombo port.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)