Sri Lanka‘s Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has said that India is the biggest friend of the island nation in times of crisis. Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy last year and defaulted on its USD 51 billion foreign loans for the first time since independence from Britain in 1948. India has played a significant role in aiding the island nation over the last year to tide over the economic crisis.
Addressing the Tata Tiscon Dealer Convention 2023 in Colombo, Prime Minister Gunawardena called on Indian companies to invest further in Sri Lanka. He further said that India is the biggest friend of Sri Lanka in times of crisis, the Colombo Gazette portal reported. Outlining the benefits of Indian investments in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Gunawardena highlighted that 90 per cent of components used by Lanka Ashok Leyland were indigenous, it said.
Speaking at the event, High Commissioner Gopal Baglay said that both Government of India and Indian corporates are working to build relationships that are beneficial to the people within and beyond India, especially the neighbours, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Neighbourhood First Policy. He added that the driving force behind this spirit of engagement was the community-centred business practices and the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
Referring to India and Sri Lanka as ‘civilisational twins’, the High Commissioner noted that both Governments are promoting people-to-people and business-to-business ties.
He added that the presence of numerous Indian business entities for the convention was the biggest vote of confidence not only in the relationship between the two countries but also in Sri Lanka’s potential. Business and commercial linkages between the two countries are witnessing steady growth. India was the largest investor and also the biggest export destination for Sri Lanka in 2021. India continues to be the largest source of tourists as well.
Indian companies in Sri Lanka actively support Sri Lanka’s economic recovery through increased economic activities, value addition of products, and services, job creation for Sri Lankan nationals and direct assistance to the people of Sri Lanka through various corporate social responsibility activities.
In the last year alone, India has gone over and above to help Sri Lanka’s collapsing economy which has led to food, fuel and even medicine shortages. Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis had paradoxically brought the best out of India’s concerns for its southern neighbour given the island nations’ proximity in economic cooperation with China until then. When the crisis started to bite a year ago, India came forward with assistance worth USD 4 billion.
India has also given the required assurances to debt-ridden Sri Lanka for the much-needed IMF bailout package. Sri Lanka, which is trying to secure a USD 2.9 billion bridge loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was negotiating to get financial assurances from its major creditors – China, Japan and India – which is the requisite for Colombo to get the bailout package. The IMF bailout has been put on hold as Sri Lanka pursues talks with creditors to meet the global lender’s conditions for it.