Colombo: India on Friday handed over to Sri Lanka a large humanitarian assistance consignment worth more than SLR 3 billion (over Rs 65,35,00,000), as the island nation grappled with the worst economic crisis and shortage of essential items.
Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Keheliya Rambukwella, Minister of Trade Nalin Fernando and several Members of Parliament received the consignment.
The consignment comprised 14,700 Metric tonnes (MT) of rice, 250 MT of milk powder and 38 MT of medicines donated by the people of India.
The large consignment of humanitarian supplies underscores abiding people-to-people bonds between India and Sri Lanka as also concerns of the people of India for the well-being of their brethren in Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commission said in a statement.
These supplies shall be distributed among beneficiaries by the Government of Sri Lanka in the coming days, it said.
The handing over of the humanitarian assistance came a day after a delegation of senior Indian officials led by Foriegn Secretary Vinay Kwatra met the top Sri Lankan leadership, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe here.
During the meetings, India assured Sri Lanka that New Delhi stands ready to help the island nation’s quick economic recovery through promoting investments, connectivity and strengthening economic linkages.
This is the second consignment under a larger commitment of 40,000 MT of rice, 500 MT of milk powder and medicines by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
India’s economic, financial and humanitarian assistance to the people of Sri Lanka stands at over USD 3.5 billion in 2022,” the statement said.
“In addition to the three credit lines to the tune of more than USD 1.5 billion and forex support of around USD 2 billion, assistance from the Government and people of India has taken the form of supply of medicines to several health-related establishments in various parts of Sri Lanka, distribution of kerosene among the fishermen of Sri Lanka, handing over of dry rations to needy sections etc,” the release said.
Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 which has led to an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and fuel across the country.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament said India had stretched its maximum thus far by providing USD 4 billion worth of emergency assistance since January when the economic crisis came to bite.
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 have provided a lifeline to Sri Lanka amid growing public dissent over the worsening economic conditions.
Sri Lanka’s key need right now is 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.