COLOMBO: A 4 member delegation from Indian including Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra arrived at the island's capital on Thursday to hold talks with the top leaders of the country and assess the economic crisis on the ground.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with severe shortages of food, medicine, cooking gas and fuel across the island.
According to officials from the Indian High Commission, the delegation is headed by Foreign Secretary Kwatra and includes Dr V Anantha Nageswaran, the chief economic advisor, Ajay Seth Secretary Department of Economic Affairs and Additional Secretary External Affairs Karthik Pandey.
They will hold meetings with Ranil Wickremesinghe Sri Lankan Prime Minister, and will also meet with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for discussions.
Wickremesinghe spoke to the Parliament on Wednesday about the arrival of the Indian team and added that by giving emergency assistance of 4 billion dollars since January this year, Delhi has stretched its limits.
The island is facing a severe shortage of essentials. The PM said Indian aid was not a charity and that Sri Lanka should find ways and means to repay it. He was looking forward to an extended credit line to buy more fuel.
The country, which is almost bankrupt, announced in April that it would suspend about USD 7 billion in foreign debt repayments this year, out of the nearly USD 25 billion due by 2026, due to a severe foreign currency crisis. Sri Lanka's total foreign debt is USD 51 billion.
The credit lines extended by India since January this year have been a lifeline for Sri Lanka amid growing public dissent over the deteriorating economic situation. The Indian delegation coincided with the visit of the IMF delegation to Colombo for the proposed staff-level agreement, which should eventuate with a possible bailout.
A local official said Sri Lanka's current main need is to secure bridging finance until the IMF facility becomes a reality. He added that India would continue to be a key partner in this initiative.
With PTI inputs