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Visit comes even as India extends emergency assistance to the island nation in the grip an economic crisis
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris is scheduled to visit New Delhi between February 6 and 8, official sources told The Hindu, even as India extends emergency financial support to the island nation amidst a severe economic crisis.
“Minister Peiris is scheduled to travel to India, this would be his first visit to Delhi after he assumed charge as Foreign Minister in August 2021 [in a Cabinet reshuffle],” an official said, declining to comment on meetings scheduled during the visit, coming amid frequent high-level bilateral talks.
A January 6 tweet from External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said: “Greeted FM G.L. Peiris of Sri Lanka in the New Year. A reliable friend, India will support Sri Lanka in these difficult times. Agreed to remain in close touch.” The Foreign Ministers met in New York in September, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Early in December 2021, Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa was in New Delhi, when he sought comprehensive assistance from India to help Sri Lanka cope with depleting foreign reserves and shortages of essentials, including food, medicines, and fuel. India expedited assistance to Sri Lanka — by way of swaps, loan deferment and an emergency Lines of Credit — after a crucial bilateral deal to jointly develop the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms was signed on January 6, 2022, as had been agreed by Colombo and New Delhi.
From the beginning of this year, India has extended a total of $ 1.4 billion relief to Sri Lanka. On Wednesday the EXIM Bank of India and Government of Sri Lanka signed an agreement for a Line of Credit worth $ 500 million to help Sri Lanka import fuel, amid frequent shortages owing to a persisting dollar crunch. Earlier in January, India extended a $ 400 million currency swap, and deferred a payment of $500 million that Sri Lanka owed to the Asian Clearing Union. Negotiations are on for a further $ 1 billion assistance from New Delhi, official sources said.
Prof. Peiris’s visit to New Delhi also assumes significance in the wake of Sri Lanka’s prominent Tamil political parties writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently, seeking India’s intervention in ensuring a durable political solution to the island nation’s long-pending Tamil question.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Milinda Moragoda on Thursday met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in New Delhi. The officials met to “review the status of the bilateral relationship”, and discussed mutual strategic interests and “priority areas” for future cooperation, a statement said.