Indian High Commissioner, Sri Lankan trade minister talk boosting commercial links

Colombo, Jun 29 (PTI) Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay on Wednesday met the country’s Minister for Trade Nalin Fernando here and discussed diverse facets of bilateral trade.

According to a tweet by the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka, Baglay and Fernando discussed increasing trade volume and creating platforms to facilitate business linkages between New Delhi and Colombo.

Last week, a delegation of senior Indian government officials led by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra in a visit to Colombo met the crisis-hit country’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

During the meeting with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, both sides had a productive exchange of views on the current economic situation in the debt-ridden island nation and India’s ongoing support during the worst crisis in Sri Lanka since its independence from Britain in 1948.

In the meeting with Wickremesinghe, the two sides had an in-depth discussion on the Sri Lankan economy and efforts undertaken by the country’s government towards achieving economic recovery.

Both sides highlighted the importance of promoting India-Sri Lanka investment partnership including in the fields of infrastructure, connectivity, renewable energy and deepening economic linkages between the two countries.

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.

Sri Lankans continue to languish in long fuel and cooking gas queues as the government is unable to find dollars to fund imports.

So far, there have been an estimated 12 deaths in fuel queues due to exhaustion, physical ailments or accidents.

Indian credit lines for fuel and essentials have provided lifelines until the ongoing talks with the International Monetary Fund could lead to a possible bailout.

The development assistance extended by India stands at over USD 5 billion with more than USD 600 million being in grants.