India to support crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s economic recovery

COLOMBO: India’s top diplomat held talks with Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister on Thursday, when India indicated it was willing to go beyond the $4 billion in loans, swaps and aid it has already provided its cash-stressed neighbor.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in seven decades, with a severe foreign exchange shortage hampering the importation of essential commodities, including food, fuel and medicines.
The island nation off the southern tip of South India will need about $5 billion over the next six months to cover basic needs for its 22 million people, who struggle with long queues for basic items, mounting shortages and power cuts.
Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Kwatra, accompanied by other Indian officials, held talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe about providing further financial support to the country, the president’s office said in a statement.
“Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Kwatra has said that the Government of India will lend its full support to Sri Lanka in overcoming the current difficult situation as a close friend,” the statement said.
“The Indian delegation stated that the Government of India and the political authorities are determined to continue supporting Sri Lanka,” it added.
The Indian team had a separate meeting with Wickremesinghe, the central bank governor and officials of the finance ministry, an official from the prime minister’s office said.
India has been the main source of foreign aid to Sri Lanka this year, providing more than $4 billion, Wickremesinghe told parliament this week.
The neighbors are also in talks for additional aid, including a $500 million line of credit for fuel and aid with fertilizer and rice imports, as Sri Lanka tries to avert a food crisis, officials said.
Sri Lanka plans to hold a donor conference with China, India and Japan, Wickremesinghe said, as it continues talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout of about $3 billion.

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