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Jaishankar tells Tamil Nadu government – humanitarian aid should be sent for all Sri Lankans

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo (Photo: ANI/@twitter/S Jaishankar)

Responding to a strong Tamil sentiment about supplying rice and medicines to Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar asserted that the Tamil Nadu government's assistance can supplement humanitarian aid being provided by India.

In an emphatic reply to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Jaishankar said the, "MEA offers that Tamil Nadu Government's assistance can supplement what is being provided by the Govt of India. The Government of Sri Lanka's preference is for inclusive distribution."

Jaishankar's letter said: "You may wish to direct TN Chief Secretary to coordinate with Government of India for supply and distribution of humanitarian relief material to Sri Lankan Government. Relief material will be shared with Government of Sri Lanka to be distributed appropriately in the current circumstances."

The state assembly had in a unanimous resolution, supported by opposition parties AIADMK and the BJP sought permission to supply rice and essential medicines to Sri Lanka.

Former Indian diplomat to the UN, Manjeev Puri told India Narrative that the stand by the ministry is right. "The MEA has asserted itself and rightly so. The MEA has to assert the primacy of India in supplying humanitarian relief to Sri Lanka otherwise, the net impact of this assistance can be counter-productive".

Puri adds that Tamil politics is closely aligned to the happenings in Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu has a strong connection with Sri Lanka Tamils which is understandable. He added that people have links on both sides of the border.

The Indian Ocean nation is confronting its worst economic and humanitarian calamity since independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis began with the shortfall of foreign exchange reserves that prevented it from importing crude oil, food and medicines. In April the country announced that it would not be able to service its foreign debt of $51 billion including $7 billion that has to be paid this year alone.

The shortfall in foreign exchange began with the Easter bombings by Islamist groups, followed by negligible tourist arrivals during the Covid-19 pandemic and reduced remitances. Reduction in taxes and poor governance also added up to the country's financial woes.

With people struggling due to acute food, medicine and electricity shortages, Colombo is now seeking help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). India has been supporting the southern neighbour with oil, food and medicines.