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Indian Foreign Minister Arrives in Sri Lanka

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar arrived in Sri Lanka on 27 March to attend the BIMSTEC summit. The minister will also hold talks with Sri Lanka’s top leadership.

This visit is significant as the minister is traveling to Colombo for the first time after India extended the economic relief package to the island nation. The country is reeling under an economic crisis. 

Prior to reaching Colombo, Minister Jaishankar concluded his visit to the Maldives. During his visit, the minister met the top leadership of the island country. They held discussions over a range of issues on bilateral ties. 

The minister’s visit to two South Asian maritime neighbours is to explore further cooperation with them. 

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation or BIMSTEC is a seven-nation grouping – other than India and Sri Lanka, other members are Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Sri Lanka is hosting the summit in its capacity as the chair of the grouping BIMSTEC.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be joining the summit virtually on March 30. The focus of the gathering is to expand economic engagement among its members.

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.

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has been holding discussions with Jaishankar to tide over the crisis. 

While the government and opposition leaders have welcomed India’s assistance, some sections of the political parties have expressed concern over India’s conditions for the package. 

The Indian’s assistance package includes currency swaps, US$ 500 million for fuel purchase, US$ 1 billion for food and essentials, and deferment of Asian Currency Unit payments of over US$ 500 million.

In the Maldives, India and Maldives signed agreements on cooperation in education, health, and capacity building. The Indian Foreign Affairs Minister also handed over India’s expanded radar system. There are 10 radars that will strengthen Maldives’ coastal security. 

The minister also inaugurated the National College of Policing and Law Enforcement, which has been funded by India.