In its first reaction to the developments in Sri Lanka — a day after thousands ofSaturday — India on Sunday said that it “stands with the people of Sri Lanka” as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through “democratic means and values, established institutions and constitutional framework.”
This underlining of democratic processes, institutions and Constitution was in reference to the popular anger that had exploded on the streets on Saturday. Sunday was calmer in Colombo, according to Sri Lankan media reports.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and our two countries share deep civilizational bonds.”
“We are aware of the many challenges that Sri Lanka and its people have been facing, and we have stood with the Sri Lankan people as they have tried to overcome this difficult period,” he said.
“In pursuance of the central place that Sri Lanka occupies in our Neighbourhood First policy, India has extended this year itself an unprecedented support of over US$ 3.8 billion for ameliorating the serious economic situation in Sri Lanka,” the spokesperson said.
“We continue to closely follow the recent developments in Sri Lanka. India stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realize their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established institutions and constitutional framework,” Bagchi said.
The Indian High Commission in Colombo said that High Commissioner Gopal Baglay met the Sri Lankan Agriculture minister on Sunday.
“Various sections, diverse demands: one partner -#India!!!!High Commissioner met the Hon’ble Agriculture Minister and informed him about the arrival of more than 44,000 MT of urea supplied under a credit line extended by India to Sri Lanka. High Commissioner stressed that this latest assistance by India symbolises it’s continued commitment to support the people of Sri Lanka, including Lanka’s farmers, and bolster the efforts for food security of the country’s citizens,” the Indian High Commission said, as it tweeted some pictures.
As popular anger on the streets of Colombo exploded, New Delhi tread with caution, deciding to monitor how the current Sri Lankan political and military leadership handles the crisis.
Indian diplomats in Colombo were keeping a “close watch” on the ground situation – the Indian High Commission is located barely a few kilometres from the President’s residence.
With Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also offering to resign, the government in Colombo is in a state of flux, and turmoil.
For India, anarchy on the streets of Colombo and a potential rudderless political leadership do not bode well.
While India has been engaging with the political leadership, it has also kept reiterating that it is working for the “people of Sri Lanka” — a careful messaging to negate any apprehension that it is backing the Rajapaksa family or any particular political leader. Sunday’s statement also underlined the focus on “people of Sri Lanka”.