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Indian envoy calls on new Sri Lankan PM Wickremesinghe, discusses crisis

Wickremesinghe, 73, was sworn-in as Sri Lanka's 26th prime minister on Thursday to stabilise the country's debt-ridden economy and end the political turmoil

Gopal Baglay | Ranil Wickremesinghe  | sri lanka

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka PM
Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka PM

The Indian High Commissioner on Friday became the first foreign envoy to call on the new Sri Lankan Prime Minister and discussed with him the current situation in the country amid the worst economic crisis, according to sources here.

Wickremesinghe, 73, was sworn-in as Sri Lanka's 26th prime minister on Thursday to stabilise the country's debt-ridden and end the political turmoil.

Baglay visited Wickremesinghe immediately after the latter assumed duties in his office on Friday, Prime minister's office sources said.

They discussed the current situation in the country amid the ongoing economic crisis, the worst since the country gained independence in 1948.

India's economic assistance package since January had kept afloat in its worst since independence.

India provided credit lines for the purchase of fuel and essentials as Sri Lanka's foreign reserves depleted.

India has committed more than USD 3 billion to debt-ridden in loans, credit lines and credit swaps since January this year.

In mid-April declared its insolvency by announcing its inability to meet foreign debt commitments.

Sri Lanka's is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

The crisis has provoked widespread protests calling for political reform and the resignation of President Gotabaya .

On April 1, President Gotabaya imposed a state of emergency, lifting it five days later. The government reimposed a state of emergency on May 6 after police fired teargas and arrested students protesting near parliament, which was adjourned until May 17.

Although the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, the police fatally shot a protester on April 19, and on several occasions have used teargas and water cannons against protesters. The authorities have made numerous arrests and repeatedly imposed curfews.

The political crisis was triggered in late March when people hurt by long hours of power cuts and essential shortages took to the streets demanding the resignation of the government.

President sacked his Cabinet and appointed a younger cabinet as a response to the demand for resignation. A continuous protest opposite his secretariat has now gone on for well over a month.

On Monday, his brother resigned as the prime minister to make way for the president to appoint an interim all political party government.

Wickremesinghe said he was looking forward to having closer ties with India.

India on Thursday said it looked forward to working with the new Sri Lankan government formed in accordance with the democratic processes and New Delhi's commitment to the people of the island nation will continue.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Fri, May 13 2022. 12:50 IST