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HomeDiplomacyStalled Indian projects, Tamil cause take centrestage on Shringla's Sri Lanka trip

Stalled Indian projects, Tamil cause take centrestage on Shringla’s Sri Lanka trip

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on four-day visit to Lanka, meets PM Mahinda Rajapaksa & Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, discusses post-pandemic economic recovery.

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New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla Monday met Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in an effort to smooth out bilateral ties that have hit rough weather due to China’s growing influence in the region.

Shringla, who is on a four-day visit to the island nation, also met Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa. He is expected to call on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Tuesday.

With a focus on the Indo-Pacific strategic construct and the Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, India is concerned that the Rajapaksa regime’s increasing tilt towards China may prove to be counterproductive for New Delhi, sources said.

One of the main reasons for Shringla’s visit to Sri Lanka this time is to assess the primary reasons behind stalling of certain key projects being executed by India, while those being overseen by China run smoothly, sources told ThePrint.

Besides, the foreign secretary also took up the Tamil cause with the Sri Lankan prime minister, and discussed the need for urgent implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution.

The 13th Amendment became part of local statute as a direct result of the Indian intervention in 1987, under the India-Sri Lanka Accord. It proposes the establishment of a provincial council system and devolution of power to the nine provinces in Sri Lanka. Successive governments in Sri Lanka, however, have not implemented it.

Shringla Monday also met representatives from local Tamil political parties, such as Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Tamil Progressive Alliance, and Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC).

During the meeting, the foreign secretary stressed “India’s commitment to protecting the rights of Tamils through full implementation of the 13th amendment, early convening of Provincial Council elections, achieving reconciliation and establishing connectivity to India”.

Also read: How Sri Lanka’s overnight flip to total organic farming has led to an economic disaster

Post-pandemic economic recovery

At his meeting with Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Shringla discussed India and Sri Lanka’s economic and commercial ties, and “post-pandemic economic recovery by taking forward joint projects of mutual benefit”.

In September 2020, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual summit with Prime Minister Rajapaksa, the latter had sought to defer the debt the island nation owes to India.

India has already provided a $400 million currency swap facility to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in order to assist the country with its economic recovery and to tackle Covid-19- related disruptions.

Projects unveiled by Shringla 

On Monday, the foreign secretary inaugurated four projects in Colombo in the housing and education sectors. This included handing over 1,235 houses to beneficiaries under the Indian Housing Project (IHP) Phase III. Under this project, India is constructing 50,000 houses at a cost of Rs 1,372 crore across various districts in Sri Lanka.

Another housing project was inaugurated at Vavuniya district. Under this project, India is providing assistance to Sri Lanka to construct 600 houses in 25 districts.

Apart from this, Shringla unveiled two colleges in Kandy district and in Vadamarachchi, Northern Province. Vada Central Ladies College in Vadamarachchi is one of 27 schools taken up for renovation and was handed over during this visit.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Sri Lanka has Rajapaksas all over. It may import autocratic values from CCP model



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