India says it will support economic recovery in crisis-hit Sri Lanka

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COLOMBO : India’s top diplomat spoke with the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on Thursday as India signaled its willingness to go beyond the $4 billion in loans, swaps and aid she once provided to her cash-strapped neighbor.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in seven decades, with a severe shortage of foreign exchange hampering the import of essentials including food, fuel and medicine.

The island nation off the southeastern tip of India needs around $5 billion over the next six months to cover the basic needs of its 22 million people, who are struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power outages.

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Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, accompanied by Finance Ministry officials, held talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the commercial capital Colombo, officials said.

“Underscoring India stands ready to help Sri Lanka recover quickly by promoting investment, connectivity and stronger economic ties,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.

The Indian team held a separate meeting with Wickremesinghe, the central bank governor and finance ministry officials, an official from the prime minister’s office said.

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“The delegation will also hold discussions with senior officials on the country’s economic situation and short-term and long-term assistance needs,” the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said in a statement.

India has been the main source of foreign aid to Sri Lanka this year, providing more than $4 billion, Wickremesinghe told parliament this week.

Neighbors are also in talks for additional support, including a $500 million fuel line of credit and help with importing fertilizer and rice as Sri Lanka tries to avert a food crisis, officials said.

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Sri Lanka plans to hold a donors’ conference with China, India and Japan, Wickremesinghe said, as it continues talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package worth around $3 billion. .

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