Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

S Jaishankar To Visit Sri Lanka Next Week To Hold Bilateral Talks, Attend BIMSTEC Engagements

This will be S Jaishankar's first visit to the island nation since India extended an economic relief package to bail Sri Lanka out of the current economic crisis.

S Jaishankar to visit Sri Lanka.
S Jaishankar PTI photo

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will arrive in Sri Lanka next week for bilateral talks and BIMSTEC engagements, the Indian High Commission here said on Saturday.

This will be his first visit to the island nation since India extended an economic relief package to bail Sri Lanka out of the current economic crisis.

“External Affairs Minister @DrSJaishankar will undertake a visit to #SriLanka for bilateral and #BIMSTEC engagements on 28-30 March,” the India mission here tweeted.

Besides India and Sri Lanka, the BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

The summit is being hosted by Sri Lanka in its capacity as the chair of the seven-nation grouping BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the virtual summit of the BIMSTEC grouping on March 30, which is expected to focus on expanding economic engagement among its member countries.

The summit comes at a time when Sri Lanka is facing its all-time worst foreign exchange crisis after the pandemic hit the island nation’s earnings from tourism and remittances.

India, since mid-January, has provided economic relief in the form of currency swaps, deferred repayments and dedicated credit lines for the purchase of fuel and essential imports.

Jaishankar’s visit is taking place at a time when the public outrage over the Lankan government’s inefficiency in handling the crisis has come out in the open.

People are holding protests and vigils urging immediate solutions to rid them of fuel and gas queues and enduring long hours of power cuts.

In recent days, the Opposition as well as a section of the government allies had also raised concerns over some of the newly-approved Indian projects in the island nation.

Sri Lanka is facing an acute economic and energy crisis triggered due to shortage of foreign exchange. A sudden rise in prices of key commodities and fuel shortage forced tens of thousands of people to queue for hours outside petrol filling stations. People are also facing long hours of power cuts daily.

All essentials are in short supply due to import restrictions forced by the forex crisis.

India recently announced to extend a USD 1 billion line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial assistance to help the country deal with the economic crisis.

New Delhi had extended a USD 500 million line of credit to Colombo in February to help it purchase petroleum products.