Crisis in Sri Lanka: Neighboring Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. As a result, people took to the streets, violent protests followed by curfews and a state of emergency. After much political turmoil, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken over the reins of the country.
Senior diplomats, India’s ambassador to China and Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok Kant answered some questions on how the situation in Sri Lanka came about and what challenges the new prime minister will face. In an interview given to Language. Let’s see what the questions are and their answers …
Q: What do you think is the main reason for the current crisis in Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka is going through the worst phase since its independence. Along with the economic crisis, there is also the political crisis. The crisis has been raging for many years, but recent developments have exacerbated the situation. Hundreds were killed in the 2019 Easter bombings. The biggest impact was on tourism, the mainstay of Sri Lanka’s economy. Then came Kovid-19 and now the Russia-Ukraine war. In all of this, there were some strategic mistakes of the rulers, which made the situation unexpected and serious. The country’s foreign exchange reserves began to dwindle. There was a huge shortage of fuel and other necessities. Since then, there has been political instability. There is a lot of resentment among the people over the poor management of the economy. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has had to resign and people are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Now Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken over as the Prime Minister. He is very experienced. Let’s see how the situation unfolds. They face many challenges.
Q: The level of economic and political instability in Sri Lanka is a matter of concern for Asian countries, especially India. Do you see any danger?
A: We all know that Sri Lanka and India are close friends. Our relationship is multifaceted, from economy to security. We even have cultural and historical ties. If something happens in Sri Lanka it definitely affects India and if something happens in India it affects Sri Lanka too. The current situation in Sri Lanka could be prolonged. The Government of India was the first to assist Sri Lanka by adopting a ‘neighbors first’ policy. One billion dollars in debt relief.
India’s support is for the people of Sri Lanka, for the Sri Lankan community. When Sri Lanka appealed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help, India also helped the neighboring country and intervened to speed up the process. Therefore, India has taken a very appropriate role in this matter. This trend is expected to continue in the future.
Q: Do you see China’s role in the current situation in Sri Lanka?
A: Definitely, it has to do with China. Sri Lanka’s current economic situation is related to the costly foreign projects for which it has borrowed. Adopted the policy of infrastructure development by taking loans. Sri Lanka borrowed heavily, especially from China, and launched large and expensive projects, such as the port of Hambantota and the Matala Rajapaksa International Airport. However, he did not get the expected income from these projects. He still has to pay off his debts. In the current scenario, China was expected to help Sri Lanka, but so far no such assistance has been forthcoming. China was not in favor of Sri Lanka turning to the IMF.
Q: What should India learn from the developments in Sri Lanka?
Answer: The situation in both the countries is different and they cannot be compared. India is a very big economy and it is doing better than Sri Lanka. However, when it comes to challenges facing our neighbors, we must both work together. We must move forward with this feeling by supporting each other.
Question: There is a feeling in India that the rulers of Sri Lanka encouraged partition on religious grounds and that was the reason for the present situation?
Answer: The solution to the ethnic and religious problems in Sri Lanka is pending. Sri Lanka had decades of civil war and it ended in 2009. Only then did the issue of ethnic and religious divisions need to be seriously addressed, but that did not happen. Other minority communities in Sri Lanka, including Tamils, Christians and Muslims, feel that they are not equal participants in society. I believe this is also a factor in the current situation in Sri Lanka. However, at the same time, I would like to point out that the recent protests in Sri Lanka have involved all sections of the society. It’s not just people from the majority community. Muslims, Tamils and Christians also took part in the protests. So that’s a good sign.
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