New Delhi: National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval met High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Milinda Moragoda Thursday, and assured him of more help in the coming months.
During the meeting, India and Sri Lanka discussed the ongoing political and economic crises in Colombo and the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister after Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation, official sources told ThePrint.
The meeting comes at a time when Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is trying to establish a full cabinet, after the country’s ministers resigned en masse owing to the protests in the nation, which continue to swell by the day. Gotabaya’s removal is among the key demands of the protesters.
India is also “closely watching” the next “big step” that Sri Lanka is planning to take in terms of doing away with the presidential system of governance by amending their Constitution, sources said.
PM Wickremesinghe is reportedly planning to present the 21st Amendment to the Constitution that will replace the 20A provision under which the president has all the powers.
At the meeting with NSA Doval, which was also attended by Deputy NSA Vikram Misri and Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Niluka Kadurugamuwa, Colombo urged India for assistance in obtaining international support.
“High Commissioner Moragoda requested for India’s assistance in garnering international support for the economic recovery in Sri Lanka, to which the national security adviser responded positively,” a press statement from the Sri Lankan High Commission said.
It added: “During their discussion a comprehensive review of the status of the bilateral relationship was carried out and priority areas for future cooperation were deliberated upon. The discussion particularly focused on the present economic crisis in Sri Lanka, and the high commissioner thanked the national security adviser for the support that is extended by the Government of India to Sri Lanka to manage the situation.”
On Thursday, the Indian High Commission in Colombo also issued an advisory in which it asked all Indian nationals — NRIs and students — to register their details on its official website via a link. However, it said it was not a new link and this was done periodically to keep the database updated.
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‘Protect the motherland’
During the early days of the crisis, Sri Lanka had asked India if it could reach out to some of its bilateral and multilateral partners like the US, Japan, Australia, and ASEAN, and play “guarantor” to seek financial help for Colombo.
India has extended, this year alone, support worth over $3.5 billion to the people of Sri Lanka to tide over the ongoing economic difficulties. Besides this, India has also aided with mitigating the shortages of essential items such as food and medicines.
On Thursday, which marked the 13th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE, Gotabaya said local and foreign groups were “trying to exploit” the ongoing crisis in the country and destabilise it.
“None of us expected the crisis situation we are going through today. The economic crisis has expanded towards a political and social upheaval. Under any circumstances, we will not disregard the policy towards safeguarding sovereignty and independence of this country,” Gotabaya, who is also the defence minister, said. “That is because our desire is to protect the motherland above all else.”
He added: “There is no doubt that various local, foreign groups and individuals are trying to use the economic and political crisis as a pretext to undermine national security. We must defeat it together.”
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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