Colombo, March 28
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday met Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and discussed with him the island nation’s economic situation and India’s support during its current foreign exchange crisis.
Sri Lanka is facing an acute economic and energy crisis triggered due to the shortage of foreign exchange.
Jaishankar is here to hold bilateral talks with the country’s top leadership and attend the seven-nation Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit.
“Began the visit by meeting Finance Minister @RealBRajapaksa. Discussed the economic situation and India’s supportive response. We will continue to be guided by Neighbourhood First,” he said on Twitter.
Jaishankar’s visit is taking place at a time when the public outrage over the Lankan government’s inefficiency in handling the crisis has come out in the open.
This is his first visit to the island nation since India extended an economic relief package to bail Sri Lanka out of the current economic crisis.
Although Jaishankar’s Colombo visit is primarily for the BIMSTEC engagements, officials here said he would be taking part in all important bilateral talks with the Sri Lankan leaders.
Besides India and Sri Lanka, the BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
The summit is being hosted by Sri Lanka in its capacity as the chair of the grouping BIMSTEC.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the virtual summit of the BIMSTEC grouping on March 30, which is expected to focus on expanding economic engagement among its member countries.
Amidst the current foreign exchange crisis, people are holding protests and vigils urging immediate solutions to rid them of fuel and gas queues and enduring long hours of power cuts.
All essentials are in short supply due to import restrictions forced by the forex crisis.
India recently announced to extend USD 1 billion line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial assistance to the country to deal with the economic crisis.
New Delhi had extended USD 500 million line of credit to Colombo in February to help it purchase petroleum products.