COLOMBO: Four senior Indian government officials, including Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, arrived here on Thursday to meet Sri Lanka's top leadership and discuss and assess the unprecedented economic crisis faced by the island nation.
Sri Lanka has been facing the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, prompting an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and fuel across the island nation.
Officials from the Indian High Commission said Foreign Secretary Kwatra headed the delegation which includes Dr V Anantha Nageswaran, the chief economic advisor, Ajay Seth Secretary Department of Economic Affairs and Additional Secretary External Affairs Karthik Pandey.
They are here to engage with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while also having talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and other senior officials.
On Wednesday, Wickremesinghe in Parliament said that the Indian delegation will arrive in Sri Lanka on Thursday while adding that Delhi had stretched its maximum thus far by providing 4 billion dollars worth of emergency assistance since January this year when the economic crisis came to bite.
The island has faced severe shortages of bare essentials with serpentine queues forming. Wickremesinghe said the Indian assistance was not a charity and Sri Lanka should possess ways and means to pay back. He was banking on extended credit lines for further purchase of fuel.
The nearly-bankrupt 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.
The Indian credit lines since January this year have provided a lifeline to Sri Lanka amid growing public dissent over the worsening economic conditions. The Indian delegation coincides with the visit of the IMF delegation who are engaging Colombo for the proposed staff-level agreement which should eventuate with a possible bailout.
Sri Lanka's key need right now was to secure bridging finance until the realisation of the IMF facility, a local official said. India will continue to be a key partner in this endeavour, he added.