New Delhi: As Sri Lanka battles an unprecedented economic and political crisis, the Government of India declared on Sunday that it “stands with the people of Sri Lanka” and that it was closely monitoring the evolving situation in the island nation. While watching the Sri Lankans work their way to resolving the crisis, the external affairs ministry said India had already given $3.8 billion in support to Sri Lanka this year to help it to overcome the serious economic crisis.
“India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and our two countries share deep civilisational bonds. We are aware of the many challenges that Sri Lanka and its people have been facing, and we have stood with the Sri Lankan people as they have tried to overcome this difficult period… We continue to follow closely recent developments in Sri Lanka. India stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established institutions and constitutional framework,” MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi said.
He said in pursuance of the central place Sri Lanka occupies in India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, New Delhi had given unprecedented support of over $ 3.8 billion this year to ameliorate the serious economic situation in Sri Lanka. In the latest step, India has provided more than 44,000 MT of urea to Sri Lanka supplied under a credit line. Indian high commissioner in Colombo Gopal Baglay stressed this latest assistance by India symbolises continued commitment to support Sri Lanka’s people, including its farmers, and bolster the efforts for food security.
Several Indian political parties urged the government to proactively help crisis-ridden Sri Lanka. Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday urged the government and the international community to come forward and help Sri Lanka, where protesters took over the presidential palace on Saturday and set on fire the Prime Minister’s house to pressure them to step down.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has fled the presidential palace and even announced he would quit on July 13, on Sunday ordered his officials to ensure the smooth distribution of cooking gas after the fuel-starved country received 3,700 metric tonnes of LP gas.
“The Indian National Congress has been following with concern the evolving political situation in Sri Lanka. The economic challenges, rising prices and shortage of food, fuel and essential commodities have caused enormous hardships and distress among the people there. The Congress expresses its solidarity with Sri Lanka and its people in this moment of grave crisis and hopes they will be able to overcome it. We hope that India will continue to assist the people and government of Sri Lanka as they deal with the difficulties of the current situation. The Congress also urges the international community to extend all assistance and support to Sri Lanka,” Mrs Gandhi said in a statement.
External affairs minister S. Jaishankar said India was trying to help but Sri Lankans too were working through their problem and that India was “watching the situation closely”. Mr Jaishankar said: “We have been supportive of Sri Lanka, are trying to help and have always been helpful. They are working through their problem, and we will see what happens.” He added that there was no refugee crisis as of now.
While reacting to the turmoil in Lanka, the European Union called for a “solution to the current crisis and return to normalcy”, while the United States, in an official statement, said that the “Sri Lankan people have the right to peacefully raise their voices”.
As the Sri Lankan protesters laid siege to major government landmarks of the nearly defunct administration, several countries have asked their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the island nation. The Chinese embassy asked its citizens “not to participate in or watch any protests.”