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Sri Lanka's Basil Rajapaksa arrives in New Delhi; to meet top Indian ministers

Basil Rajapaksa was inducted into the Sri Lankan cabinet in July this year. (Photo: Twitter @RealBRajapaksa)Premium
Basil Rajapaksa was inducted into the Sri Lankan cabinet in July this year. (Photo: Twitter @RealBRajapaksa)

  • Ties between India and Sri Lanka were strained after the latter unilaterally cancelled a tripartite agreement earlier this year with India and Japan to jointly develop a Colombo Port terminal. The move was seen as having happened under pressure from China

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NEW DELHI: Sri Lankan finance minister Basil Rajapaksa is scheduled to meet top Indian ministers on Wednesday as the two countries look at increasing collaboration after a strain in ties earlier this year caused by Colombo cancelling a commercial contract it had signed with India and Japan.

Rajapaksa, brother to president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday. Basil Rajapaksa was inducted into the Sri Lankan cabinet in July this year.

This is Basil Rajapaksa's first official visit abroad since his appointment in the middle of what was described as an “unprecedented" economic crisis in Sri Lanka, including a falling rupee, soaring living costs, and growing fear of food shortages next year.

According to news reports from Sri Lanka, Basil Rajapaksa could seek crucial economic assistance from India in the form of investments and increased tourist exchanges.

In New Delhi, Basil Rajapaksa will meet finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar.

Since last year, the Sri Lankan government has made at least one request for a $1.1 billion currency swap. New Delhi so far has not made it clear whether it will accede to the Sri Lankan request.

Ties between India and Sri Lanka were strained after the latter unilaterally cancelled a tripartite agreement earlier this year with India and Japan to jointly develop a Colombo Port terminal. The move was seen as having happened under pressure from China, India's main strategic and economic rival which is making inroads to counter New Delhi's influence in the Indian Ocean region. On its part, Colombo offered another project at a neighbouring terminal with India’s Adani Group signing up for that as the main private investor.

The strained relationship was brought back on an even keel after a visit in early October by foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. This was followed by a visit by Indian Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane and some Indian naval ships – in a sign that ties were beginning to settling again.

Ahead of Basil Rajapaksa’s visit, Sri Lankan high commissioner Milinda Moragoda met Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday and “explored avenues of further augmenting defence and security cooperation with India," an official statement said.

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