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India Refutes Speculative Media Reports On Sending Troops To Sri Lanka

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday announced that he will resign. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also said that he will step down after a new government is formed.

High Commission of India, Colombo
High Commission of India, Colombo Facebook/High Commission of India, Colombo

The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka has categorically dismissed for the second time in as many months the speculative media reports about New Delhi sending its troops to Colombo, where thousands of angry protesters stormed embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's official residence and set Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's house on fire amidst the ongoing economic crisis.

President Rajapaksa on Saturday announced that he will resign. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also said that he will step down after a new government is formed.

"The High Commission would like to categorically deny speculative reports in sections of media and social media about India sending her troops to Sri Lanka. These reports and such views are also not in keeping with the position of the Government of India," the Indian High Commission said in a tweet late on Sunday.

"The Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India clearly stated today that India stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity & progress through democratic means & values, established institutions & constitutional framework," it said.

In its first reaction to the massive political turmoil in Colombo, India on Sunday said it stands with the Sri Lankan people in their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means, established institutions and constitutional framework.

The comments by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) came a day after thousands of enraged protesters stormed Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's houses, in the culmination of months of agitation over the ongoing economic crisis.

MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India continues to closely follow the developments in Sri Lanka and that it is aware of the many challenges that the country and its people have been facing.

"India is Sri Lanka's closest neighbour and our two countries share deep civilizational bonds. We are aware of the many challenges that Sri Lanka and its people have been facing, and we have stood with the Sri Lankan people as they have tried to overcome this difficult period," Bagchi said.

"India stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established institutions and constitutional framework," he said.

The High Commission's tweet came following speculation emanating from a tweet by senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

"Both Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksha were elected in a free election with thumping majority. How can India allow a mob to overturn such a legitimate election? Then no democratic country in our neighbourhood will be safe. If Rajapaksa wants India’s military help we must give," Swamy tweeted on Sunday.

Earlier in May, the Indian High Commission categorically dismissed speculative media reports about New Delhi sending its troops to Colombo, saying India is fully supportive of Sri Lanka's democracy, stability and economic recovery.

The denial from the Indian mission came a day after it was refuted as "fake and blatantly false" local social media speculation that former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family members had fled to India.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.

Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in recent months, calling for the country's leaders to resign over accusations of economic mismanagement.

Schools have been suspended and fuel has been limited to essential services. Patients are unable to travel to hospitals due to the fuel shortage and food prices are soaring.

Trains have reportedly reduced in frequency, forcing travellers to squeeze into compartments and even sit precariously on top of them as they commute to work.

In several major cities, including Colombo, hundreds are forced to stand in line for hours to buy fuel, sometimes clashing with police and the military as they wait.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

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