A high-level Indian delegation called on Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe here on Sunday and briefed him on the developments in the jointly-identified priority areas for bilateral collaboration in the crucial energy sector. President Wickremesinghe provided his insights on the early implementation of these initiatives when the delegation led by Pankaj Jain, Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Natural Gas, met him, the Indian High Commission here said.
It said India would gift Sri Lanka 500 solar-powered indoor cooking systems. The Lanka India Oil Company (LIOC), the local operator of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), said the visiting Secretary to the ministry of power and natural gas Jain and Chairman IOC Shrikant Madhav Vaidya had earlier visited the Trincomalee eastern Sri Lanka’s IOC terminal.
Sri Lanka and India run a joint venture storing fuel in the World War II time storage tanks in Trincomalee. In January last year, Sri Lanka formally signed an agreement with India to jointly develop the oil tank farms in Trincomalee. The joint venture was finalised amid growing concerns over China's influence in the island nation.
Jain had inaugurated three new LIOC retail fuel sheds in their ongoing expansion whilst addressing the chamber of commerce and attended a meeting of chief executive officers of leading Indian businesses based in Sri Lanka. Chairman IOC Vaidya said he was delighted to have met former World Cup-winning Sri Lankan cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga.
The top-level Indian delegation on the petroleum sector is expected to have extensive talks with their Lankan counterparts for further collaboration, LIOC said. LIOC provided much assistance to Sri Lankan fuel consumers at the height of the country's worst economic crisis.
Sri Lanka is completely dependent on imported fuel, which cost the cash-strapped country close to a whopping $4 billion last year. The island nation has been hit hard by a catastrophic economic and humanitarian crisis, sparked by years of mismanagement and the raging pandemic.
Earlier this week, the IMF approved a $3 billion bailout programme to help Sri Lanka overcome its economic crisis and catalyse financial support from other development partners, a move welcomed by Colombo as a "historic milestone" in the critical period. Analysts say the move is expected to play a major role in stabilising Sri Lanka's economy. In such a scenario, a visit from a high-level Indian delegation is seen as New Delhi's attempt to forge long-term deals in Sri Lanka's energy sector to counter China's growing influence in the country.