At a time when Sri Lanka is facing a severe economic crisis and a steep currency depreciation, India on Thursday urged its nationals living in Sri Lanka to exercise caution and examine the currency convertibility and fuel situation in the island nation carefully.
During a weekly presser, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “We have been following these developments for some time but our understating is that India is still the largest source of tourists for Sri Lanka.”
In general guidance to all the Indians there or for the ones who are thinking of going there, Mr Bagchi noted, “Our endeavour is to prevent any untoward incident involving Indians outside India. We would therefore encourage Indians to exercise all care and caution while in Sri Lanka. They should examine all relevant factors including currency convertibility and the fuel situation before undertaking any essential travel to Sri Lanka.”
He further assured that the Indian High Commission is in touch with local authorities over the safety of the Indian nationals in Sri Lanka.
In reply to the queries about whether Indians should travel to Sri Lanka, MEA spokesperson pointed out, “As regards to travel of Indians to Sri Lanka in the current situation, let me emphasize that the safety and well-being of Indian nationals during their stay outside India including in Sri Lanka, in this particular case, is always of prime importance,” and added that Indians must exercise caution.
Notably, Sri Lanka is suffering its worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, which comes on the heels of successive waves of COVID-19, threatening to undo years of development progress and severely undermining the country’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
India has been reiterating its stance to stand by the people of Sri Lanka at the time of crisis, saying that India has been at forefront of extending economic assistance to Sri Lanka and will continue to do so.
“India has been at forefront of extending economic assistance to Sri Lanka as per what they require and we are one of the countries that have provided the maximum amount of assistance at the time of need. We will continue to stand by the people of Sri Lanka in whatever manner we can,” Mr Bagchi had said.
India emerged as the first responder under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Neighbourhood First policy when Sri Lanka was left alone by its so-called benefactors for funding support. India has responded with urgency to the government of Sri Lanka’s request for assistance in overcoming hardships and will enhance economic linkages between the two countries be it through infrastructure connectivity and renewable energy.
The country’s economy is bracing for a sharp contraction due to the unavailability of basic inputs for production, an 80 per cent depreciation of the currency since March 2022, coupled with a lack of foreign reserves and the country’s failure to meet its international debt obligations.
Reduced domestic agricultural production, a lack of foreign exchange reserves, and local currency depreciation have fuelled the shortages. The economic crisis will push families into hunger and poverty – some for the first time – adding to the half a million people who the World Bank estimates have fallen below the poverty line because of the pandemic.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)