COLOMBO: India continues to be supportive of Sri Lanka in "all possible ways" for its early economic recovery and growth, the Indian High Commission said on Tuesday after a media report that New Delhi does not plan to provide fresh financial support to the crisis-hit country on top of the nearly USD 4 billion it has extended this year.
ÂWe would like to emphasise that India has extended unprecedented bilateral assistance amounting close to USD 4 billion this year for ameliorating the difficulties faced by the people of Sri Lanka. India has also advocated to other bilateral and multilateral partners supporting Sri Lanka expeditiously in its current economic difficulties," the Indian High Commission said.
Responding to a report that India would no longer extend economic support to Sri Lanka, the High Commission in a statement said, "ÂWe continue to be supportive of Sri Lanka in all possible ways, in particular by promoting long-term investments from India in key economic sectors in Sri Lanka for its early economic recovery and growth."
ÂOur bilateral development cooperation projects in Sri Lanka, which cumulatively total about USD 3.5 billion, are ongoing. Sri Lankans also continue to avail of scholarships for higher education and skills training in premier Indian institutions. These aspects of our close and long-standing cooperation with Sri Lanka also contribute to the efforts for addressing Sri Lanka's current economic difficulties," it said.
India has been the biggest provider of aid this year to its southern neighbour, which is fighting its worst economic crisis in more than seven decades and struggling to pay for imports.
The Indian government's assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka has reached almost USD 4 billion since January this year.
The High Commission of India in another statement on Tuesday said that in response to a recent request from the Sri Lankan Government, it held the first round of discussions on September 16 in Colombo on restructuring the country's bilateral official debt to India.
"The discussions held in a cordial atmosphere symbolise India's support to early conclusion and approval of a suitable IMF Programme for Sri Lanka, for which financing assurances from creditors to make Sri Lanka's debt sustainable are required. India will continue to remain closely engaged with relevant Sri Lankan stakeholders," it said.
Sri Lanka and the IMF reached a preliminary agreement in early September for a loan of about USD 2.9 billion, which is contingent on the country receiving financing assurances from official creditors and negotiations with private creditors.
The country of 22 million people has been battling shortages of essentials, including fuel, food and medicines, for months after its foreign exchange reserves dropped to record lows, stalling imports and stoking unprecedented public unrest.