India wants the ongoing transition in Sri Lanka to not only be ‘smooth’ but also to help the island nation stage a ‘swift and efficient’ economic recovery, the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka said on Monday. Lanka, Gopal Baglay, on the Indian Express.
To this end, India, which has helped Sri Lanka with nearly $4 billion in aid, would like “in the future” to make “more investments” to help the country build its capacity to respond. to economic challenges, Baglay said.
His remarks are the subject of an exclusive interview, his first after the July 9 protests and the Resignation of Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksaand ahead of Parliament’s vote on Wednesday to elect a new president.
During his meeting with the Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena:
We have spoken out in favor of finding a solution to the current situation within (the) framework of democracy through democratically established institutions and within the constitutional framework. Sri Lanka is going through a crucial phase. They must elect, in accordance with their own constitutional provisions, a new president for the remainder of the term. On Saturday, the House was to be convened to officially begin this process. So, as high commissioner from another democracy, from a close and neighboring country, it was my duty and my responsibility to cross over and convey support for democracy to the president in person and to reiterate to him the India’s support to the people of Sri Lanka in their difficult times.
Indian Aid to Sri Lanka:
India has always prioritized our relations with Sri Lanka under our priority neighborhood policy. Of course, our ties are civilizational, based on very close relations and cultural similarities between peoples.
But at the moment we are devoting a lot of attention to strengthening the economic partnership and it has been a great professional satisfaction, personally for me, to see some of these initiatives taken and move forward… We have granted a total $3.8 billion in support over the six months of this year – nearly $4 billion. The idea is to respond to Sri Lanka’s requests to enable it to cope with its currency crisis. This is important because essential items like fuel, fertilizer, food and medicine have to be imported.
Going forward, we would like to continue to attract more investment to Sri Lanka, as this will help build medium to long term capacity to respond within the Sri Lankan economy.
On the protests and the economic situation:
It is not my business to comment on the internal protests in Sri Lanka. Generally, there is some level of expression of people’s feelings. Regarding the larger economic difficulties and the impact of the pandemic, not only tourism as an industry has been hit hard, but also exports and remittances entering Sri Lanka. The combined effect of all of this has created difficulties that perhaps were not foreseeable two years ago.
There is a regime change, a transition taking place right now. And as a country close and friendly to Sri Lanka, we wish the people of Sri Lanka good luck and hope that this transition will not only be smooth, but will help Sri Lanka achieve a speedy and effective economic recovery, contributes to alleviating the difficulties that the people of Sri Lanka are facing.
On India’s strategic interests:
Sri Lanka is an important member of the Indian Ocean Region Rim Association (IORA). It is an important member of BIMSTEC. He was, as you know, until recently the President of BIMSTEC. Our maritime ties with Sri Lanka are very important… (But) it’s not just about India’s security. The Easter Sunday attack took place here in 2019… there has been good cooperation in the region and between India and Sri Lanka to ensure that we continue to face, in cooperation, the challenges that affect us all In the region.
It is very important that Sri Lanka continues to play an important role in maritime surveillance. Because a number of drug shipments are interdicted through cooperation between India and Sri Lanka and other countries in the region, such as the Maldives. This affects all of our safety, it is important that we continue to cooperate and maintain the level of our cooperation… In April there was a Coast Guard exercise which also involved the Sri Lankan Coast Guard. It is very important that bilateral and multilateral initiatives to maintain and strengthen collective security, regional security, be promoted and encouraged.
On the aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils and possible conversation with the new president:
We’ll have to talk to the new president when he’s there. But when it comes to the aspirations of the Tamil people and the aspirations of the citizens of Sri Lanka, there is a clear stipulation in the Sri Lankan Constitution. Our consistent position is that there must be a negotiated surrender of power under the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. And we have encouraged the government of Sri Lanka in the past as well as the political parties to engage in direct conversation with each other and find a way forward.
When the new government is in place, it may be time again for the various actors to pick up the thread and engage in a forward-looking dialogue on this file to resolve these issues.
For our part, we have remained very closely engaged in development cooperation work not only in the North, but also in the East. And in the ethnic Indian Tamil communal areas, their public sector, the plantation workers, this has been one of the features of our bilateral relations with Sri Lanka in the recent past. We continue to pay great attention to development cooperation in the north and east, but also in the rest of Sri Lanka as well.