Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Milinda Moragoda has lauded New Delhi’s support to his country which came without “condition” and the package was “extremely flexible”. India last year gave financial support of USD 4 billion as the country underwent a major economic crisis. Speaking to our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, High Commissioner Moragoda said, “India helped us to stabilise the economy and the country “reached out to the IMF and some of the bilateral partners like Japan.”
Essentially, India was Sri Lanka’s first creditor nation to support its debt restructuring which will soon pave the way for an IMF bailout. The country requires the support of all its major creditors, including China to get IMF support. On China extending its support for debt restructuring, he said, “China has given a letter but it is at the moment not sufficient to meet the requirements of what the IMF is expecting. So this discussion is still ongoing.”
The high commissioner pointed to high-level visits between the two sides, including by Sri Lankan Petroleum to India and the annual defence dialogue later this month. On the visit of the Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5, the envoy explained that “the lesson we have learnt is that we have to ensure that there is constant communication, unambiguous and frank communication”
This was the first TV interview of the high commissioner where he also spoke on Indian conglomerate Adani Group’s investment in the western container terminal, cultural connect and implementation of the 13th amendment.”
When asked about Sri Lanka’s current economic situation, envoy Moragoda pointed out that the reasons are multifaceted including Covid pandemic, the Ukraine war and a situation where Colombo was not able to pay its debt.
“We had over-borrowed, and we had not worked out enough ways to pay back. India stepped in very quickly,” he said adding that it was “extremely flexible” because had the country gone to any other institution like IMF at that time they would have wanted it to go through a whole process. “India instead, basically backed through different instruments,” the envoy said praising aid received from India.
He also appreciated India for reaching out to the international community including Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman urging IMF in Washington to help the island nation hit by the economic crisis.
On sprucing up the flow of tourists from India, the High Commissioner told WION that Sri Lanka’s tourism ministry is actually working on it as India is the main market. “We are also looking at increasing connectivity and have been speaking in the leaders in the aviation sector here, to see what will it take for more Indian airlines to fly to Sri Lanka, what are the obstacles,” he said.
High Commissioner also spoke on the defence partnership between the two nations. “On maritime surveillance and Dornier, we already have one and discussions about a second because that was part of the arrangement we agreed on.”
Replying to a question about any concerns over Adani projects, High Commissioner said, “As of now, not. That is a very good project, and the Adani group is very strong in that particular sector. It is interesting, the statistic is 80% of trade, business done by Colombo port is transhipment business, and 70% goes to India. Colombo port’s main business is with India. 35% of that 70% is already going to Adani ports, Adani-controlled ports. From a Business point of view, it is a perfect fit. So, therefore, we are not concerned about it.”
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