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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Silent on Rajapaksas, India supports ‘people of Lanka’, their ‘best interests’

The carefully-worded three-paragraph statement does not mention the “government of Sri Lanka” or the Rajapaksas at all.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: May 11, 2022 7:12:14 am
A damaged bus of Sri Lanka's ruling party supporters is blocking a main road after it was set on fire during a clash of pro and anti-government demonstrators near the Prime Minister's official residence, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 10, 2022. (Reuters)

India Tuesday sought to distance itself from the Rajapaksa family-led Sri Lankan government and pledged support to the “people of Sri Lanka”.

A day after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister, India took a nuanced view of the developments in Sri Lanka, saying it will “always be guided by the best interests of the people of Sri Lanka expressed through democratic processes”.

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The carefully-worded three-paragraph statement does not mention the “government of Sri Lanka” or the Rajapaksas at all.

Also, “democratic processes” likely refers to peaceful protests and possible elections, and Delhi’s discomfiture with the government’s crackdown on protesters and use of any undemocratic means to hold on to power — like military intervention or declaration of emergency etc.

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Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Colombo issued a denial in the wake of rumours in Sri Lanka that Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family had been flown to India in a helicopter. In a Twitter post, it said: “High Commission has recently noticed rumours circulating in sections of media & social media that certain political persons and their families have fled to India. These are fake and blatantly false reports, devoid of any truth or substance. High Commission strongly denies them.”

In New Delhi, Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said, “As a close neighbour of Sri Lanka, with historical ties, India is fully supportive of its democracy, stability and economic recovery.”

Vehicles of ruling party supporters that were pushed into a lake during a clash near the Prime Minister’s official residence, in Colombo on Tuesday. (Reuters)

“In keeping with our Neighbourhood First policy, India has extended this year alone support worth over US$ 3.5 billion to the people of Sri Lanka for helping them overcome their current difficulties. In addition, the people of India have provided assistance for mitigating the shortages of essential items such as food, medicine etc,” he said.

“India will always be guided by the best interests of the people of Sri Lanka expressed through democratic processes,” the MEA spokesperson said.

This is a conspicuous shift from the May 3 statement by the Indian High Commission in which it said, “India’s economic assistance to Sri Lanka which stands at more than USD 3 billion in 2022 has been instrumental in addressing diverse needs of the Government and people of Sri Lanka.” In this statement, both the Indian government as well as the people of Sri Lanka were acknowledged.

It also said that the USD 1-billion credit facility for purchase of food, medicines and other essential commodities is already operational and around 16,000 MT of rice has been supplied under it. A separate Line of Credit of USD 500 million for the purchase of petroleum products, such as diesel, petrol and aviation fuel, has paved the way for the delivery of 9 consignments of different types of fuel, it said.

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