Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Ex Indian High Commissioner says India’s massive aid to SL is not feasible

India’s aid package of nearly $6 billion to help crisis-hit Sri Lanka is unprecedented, given that India has never parted with such a large package of aid to any country, said Ashok Kantha, a former Indian diplomat who served as India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.

However, he cautioned that support on this scale was not feasible and raised questions over how far India would go to provide economic support to the crisis-hit island nation. 

Instead, he suggested that India mobilise the international community and fast-track International Monetary Fund(IMF) assistance for Sri Lanka. 

Speaking at an event organised by the Chennai Centre for China Studies, the former diplomat highlighted that even the international climate was not-so-favourable, as more than 40 nations are faced with serious debt stress.

He added that the ongoing Ukraine War had also deterred the Western powers from extending support to all these crisis-hit countries. 

The event was titled “Sri Lanka-The Present Crisis, Geopolitical Challenges & Way Ahead”, and featured speakers from academia, defence forces’ veterans, diplomats, etc. 

Pointing out that the Lankan economic crisis had been building for some time, he said that the ongoing crisis was caused by a combination of structural and legacy issues. He listed out the 2019 Easter bombing, the COVID-19 pandemic, serious mismanagement, nepotism, and corruption. 

Regarding the political crisis, he said that the situation had stabilised after a period of intense turmoil and the popular ‘Aragalaya’ struggle had lost steam, but not ended. 

He added that the popular demand was met with the departure of the then ruling Rajapaksa clan. While he said that there was no immediate alternative for Ranil Wickremesinghe, he also pointed out how the core Buddhist support base of the Rajapaksas had eroded.

“Mahinda Rajapaksa is down, but not out,” Kanta opined. On India’s Sri Lanka dilemma, the former high commissioner to Sri Lanka pointed out that, on one hand, India wanted to support the island nation, considering historic and cultural ties, while on the other hand, it wanted to maintain the distinction of supporting the country while distancing itself from the political scene.

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