‘China was missing when crisis came’, India serves subtle message to Sri Lanka

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, January 20: In his first to Colombo after Sri Lanka lapsed into an unprecedented financial crisis, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has told President Ranil Vickremesinghe that India is not only going to stay in the island nation, but deepen ties in energy and infrastructure. Jaishankar made it loud and clear that India rushed to the aid of Colombo when others waited for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to deal with the financial collapse.

While the Sri Lanka leadership has expressed gratitude to India for stabilizing the economy of the island nation, New Delhi has conveyed subtle message that allowing the Chinese spy shop Yuan Wang 5 at the Hambantota Port was not something that India would be looking forward to from a friendly nation. The Chinese spy ship, laced with surveillance radars, had docked at the port ahead of India commissioning the INS Vikrant, built by the Cochin Shipyard in the Bay of Bengal. The Sri Lankan waters had regularly been surveyed by the Chinese spy ships and nuclear-powered submarines, which the Indian strategic experts have been red-flagging for a long time.

After he called on Vickremesinghe, Jaishankar said that India didn’t wait for other creditors of Sri Lanka to act in the interests of the island nation. The veiled reference was clearly China, which had spurned all appeal of the island nation for debt recast to allow the IMF to approve the relief package. Japan was another creditor, which took its own time in giving the nod to the IMF for the debt recast of Sri Lanka.

The island nation had defaulted in its over $52 billion foreign debt servicing, as the people took to the street with the ‘Go Gotta Go’ campaign to oust the then Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from power who along with his family members had to flee the country to escape the popular fury for allegedly compromising the national interests with China by allowing high debt and mortgaging the assets of the country to Beijing.

Jaishankar has underlined that India would deepen economic partnership with Sri Lanka in areas such as energy and infrastructure, which again is an indication that New Delhi would step up measures to match the Chinese monetary muscles in the island nation. The economic experts in Colombo for long have been calling upon the national leadership to align the economy with India and attract investments, besides tapping the tourism potential. Drying of remittances in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, collapse of the tourism sector and also of agriculture amid high foreign debts, including over 15 per cent accounted for by China alone, had contributed to the collapse of the Sri Lanka economy. India with an aid of $4 billion with a proactive role in persuading the IMF to help the island nation eventually stabilized the economy of the nation.

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