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'India will always stand with Sri Lanka in overcoming Covid-19 economic challenges'

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Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa (second from left) during a meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Delhi, last month (Image courtesy: Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi)

India today reaffirmed to Sri Lanka that it will be a steadfast and reliable partner of the island nation as both countries stand to gain from closer economic interlinkages.

New Delhi's message was conveyed by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a virtual meeting with Finance Minister of Sri Lanka Basil Rajapaksa on Saturday.

The interaction follows Rajapaksa's visit to India last month and comes close on the heels of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Sri Lanka, last week.

Jaishankar told Rajapaksa that India has always stood with Sri Lanka, and will continue to support Sri Lanka in all possible ways for overcoming the economic and other challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Ministers positively noted the extension of US$ 400 million to Sri Lanka under the SAARC currency swap arrangement and deferral of ACU settlement of USD 515.2 million by two months, which would assist Sri Lanka, India's External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

The two Ministers also reviewed the progress in extending the Indian credit facility of USD 1 billion for importing food, essential items and medicine and USD 500 million for importing fuel from India.

The Lankan Finance Minister recalled India's long standing cooperation with Sri Lanka and deeply appreciated the gestures of support. He welcomed Indian investments in Sri Lanka in a number of important spheres including ports, infrastructure, energy, renewable energy, power and manufacturing and assured that a conducive environment will be provided to encourage such investments.

In this context, both Ministers noted that the recent steps taken by the government of Sri Lanka for jointly modernising Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms will boost confidence of investors, apart from enhancing Sri Lanka's energy security.

Being close friends and maritime neighbours, Jaishankar brought up the issue of Indian fishermen detained in Sri Lanka. He urged the Lankan government to ensure early release of the detained fishermen on humanitarian considerations.

Jaishankar also conveyed greetings to Rajapaksa and the people of Sri Lanka for 2022 and on the occasion of the festival of Pongal celebrated by both countries as the ministers agreed to remain in close touch for guiding mutually beneficial bilateral economic cooperation towards long-term economic partnership for shared progress and prosperity.

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