New Delhi, March 16
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday conveyed to visiting Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa that India would always stand with the island nation as it occupies a central role in New Delhi’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’.
Sri Lanka is expecting a USD 1 billion Line of Credit (LOC) from India to tide over its economic crisis and a pact on the additional financial assistance is likely to be finalised on Thursday, people familiar with the developments said.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Rajapaksa briefed Modi on initiatives being taken by both countries to increase bilateral economic cooperation, and conveyed his thanks for the support extended by India for the Sri Lankan economy.
Modi and Rajapaksa also had a “comprehensive discussion” on the complex fishermen issue and agreed on the urgent need to find a lasting solution, according to the Sri Lankan High Commission.
There have been frequent attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy and it has remained a sticky issue.
“The prime minister spoke about the central role that Sri Lanka occupies in India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy and its SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) doctrine. He reiterated that India would continue to stand with the friendly people of Sri Lanka,” the MEA said.
Last month, India extended a USD 500 million line of credit to Sri Lanka to help it purchase petroleum products as the island nation has been reeling under a severe foreign exchange and energy crisis.
“Had a good meeting with Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister @RealBRajapaksa. Glad to see our economic partnership strengthen and investments from India grow,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 16, 2022
Rajapaksa called on Modi during which he thanked the prime minister for all the assistance that India has provided to Sri Lanka at this “critical time”, the Sri Lankan High Commission said.
“Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi stated that India would always stand with Sri Lanka, a close friendly neighbour, when the visiting Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa called on him this afternoon,” the High Commission said in a statement.
It said Modi and Rajapaksa discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to bilateral ties including in areas of agriculture, renewable energy, tourism and fisheries.
“The two dignitaries also agreed that cooperation in the development of renewable energy in Sri Lanka is mutually beneficial and should be pursued with vigour,” the high commission said.
It said that Modi and Rajapaksa recognised the “complex and multidimensional” aspects of the fishermen issue.
“Prime Minister Modi and Minister Rajapaksa had a comprehensive discussion on the fisheries issue between the two countries and recognised its complex and multidimensional aspects including humane treatment of fishermen, livelihood, enforcement, ecology of the ocean, early release of arrested fishermen and their boats, etc,” it said.
“The two dignitaries also agreed on the urgent need to find a lasting solution to this complex issue,” it added.
The MEA, in its statement, said Rajapaksa noted the deepening people-to-people relations between both countries, including in the cultural sphere.
“The prime minister pointed to the potential for increasing tourist flows, including through the joint promotion of Buddhist and Ramayan tourism circuits,” it said.
In the evening, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla called on Rajapaksa.
“FS @harshvshringla called on the visiting Finance Minister @RealBRajapaks of Sri Lanka. Discussed bilateral economic & commercial cooperation & opportunities post-pandemic. Sri Lanka is integral to our #NeighbourhoodFirst policy. India will always be a reliable partner for Sri Lanka,” MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted. PTI
Discussed bilateral economic & commercial cooperation & opportunities post-pandemic.🇱🇰 is integral to our #NeighbourhoodFirst policy. India will always be a reliable partner for Sri Lanka. pic.twitter.com/81madAYT9c
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) March 16, 2022