By Naveen Kapoor
New Delhi [India] October 2 (ANI): After a lean phase, India and Sri Lanka are set to re-engage at diplomatic and political levels amidst the huge financial crisis and the severe COVID-19 wave that has gripped the island country.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla will be in Sri Lanka on Saturday on a three-day visit, where he will call on top leadership including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Foreign Minister GL Pieris and his counterpart Jayanth Colombage.
During his trip, the Foreign Secretary will also travel to Kandy, Trincomalee and Jaffna and also visit Jaffna cultural centre which is being built with India's assistance.
As an immediate neighbour, India has stepped on the accelerator and is being a first responder to the COVID crisis in Sri Lanka. New Delhi has supplied to Colombo 100 tons of liquid medical oxygen, 26 tons of medicines and delivered half a million Covid vaccines.
India has also aided the Suwa Seriya programme and provided free ambulances which now runs in all provinces of Sri Lanka and played an instrumental role in its fight against COVID 19.
It is learnt that Sri Lanka has been demanding more supplies of Covid vaccines from India.
Now that India has announced that it will open exports of vaccines, Lanka can be a beneficiary.
Interestingly China has also been offering Sinopharm but a majority of Lankans prefer Indian manufactured vaccines.
It is learnt that to ease the economic stress caused by the pandemic, India is exploring and assessing ways to provide financial assistance to Sri Lanka.
Earlier this year Sri Lanka did a USD 400 million currency swap with India and it is likely to have another currency swap soon
India is visibly concerned with the slow progress of its projects in comparison to China-backed projects
India has given a huge line of credit to rebuild northern Sri Lanka ravaged by war especially railways. India has small and big projects all over Sri Lanka.
During his visit, Foreign Secretary Shringla will review the progress made in energy and developmental projects.
Indian company Adani has recently entered a strategic deal with Sri Lanka ports authority to build a USD 700 million deep-sea container terminal and the company will be controlling 51 per cent of the Colombo west international terminal.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had unceremoniously pushed out India and Japan from the east container terminal of Colombo port.
Meanwhile, the issue of the 13th amendment and devolution has been sidelined by the Rajapaskhe government, while re-engaging with leadership, India will be discussing this issue and would also like to see some progress made in this aspect.
Lanka foreign minister GL Pieris in a recent meeting with External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar on the sidelines of UNGA told that his country is working to address the post-ethnic war issues.
India has maintained a high-level contact with the Lankan leadership, EAM also visited Sri Lanka in January where he stated that it was in the interest of the neighbouring country that the expectation of Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity are fulfilled.
Maritime security is also a key element of India's engagement with Sri Lanka, Colombo security conclave has been promoted by India.
This is currently a trilateral arrangement between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, they deal with issues of the illicit narcotics trade, drug trafficking, terrorism and growing radicalization in the region, the secretariat has also been established in Colombo, recently deputy NSA's met in Colombo.
Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles also participated as observers, talks are also on with these countries to formally join the grouping as permanent members, it is learnt that countries have responded positively. (ANI)