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Sri Lanka: For what reasons Sri Lanka was ruined, what will be the challenges before the new Prime Minister, former Indian diplomat told

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Sri Lanka Crisis: Neighboring country Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic phase ever since its independence in 1948. Because of this, people took to the streets, there were violent demonstrations and then there was a situation of curfew and emergency. After heavy political turmoil, now former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has again taken charge of the country.

How did this situation in Sri Lanka happen and what would be the challenges before the new Prime Minister, on all these issues, senior diplomat, Ambassador of India to China and Ashok Kanth, who has been Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, answered some questions in an interview to Bhasha. Let’s see what were those questions and their answers…

Question: What do you consider to be the main reason for the crisis Sri Lanka is in today?

Answer: Sri Lanka is going through the worst phase after its independence. Along with the economic crisis, there is also a political crisis. This crisis was brewing for the last several years, but some developments in the recent years made the situation worse there. Hundreds of people were killed in the 2019 Easter bombings. This affected tourism the most, which has been the mainstay of the Sri Lankan economy. Then came Covid-19 and now the Russia-Ukraine war. In the midst of all this, there were some policy mistakes of the rulers, which made this situation unexpected and serious. The country’s foreign exchange reserves began to deplete. There was a severe shortage of fuel and other essential commodities. And after that there was now a situation of political instability. There is a lot of resentment among the people due to the mismanagement of the economy. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had to resign and people are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Now Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken over as the Prime Minister. He is very experienced. Let us see how the situation unfolds. There are many challenges before them.

Question: How much is the economic and political instability in Sri Lanka a matter of concern for Asian countries, especially India. Do you see any danger?

Answer: We all know that Sri Lanka and India are close friends. From economy to security, our relationship is multifaceted. Even we have cultural and historical links. If anything happens in Sri Lanka, it will definitely have an impact on India and if something happens in India, it will have an effect on Sri Lanka as well. The situation prevailing in Sri Lanka at present can be prolonged. The Government of India helped Sri Lanka first, following the policy of ‘neighbourhood first’. One billion dollar loan assistance given.

This support of India is for the people of Sri Lanka, for the Sri Lankan society. When Sri Lanka requested for help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India also supported the neighboring country in this and also intervened to speed up the process. That is why India has taken a very right stand in this matter. I expect this trend to continue in the future as well.

Question: Do you see any role of China in the situation in Sri Lanka today?

Answer: Definitely, it is related to China. The current economic situation of Sri Lanka is also related to the costly projects for which it has taken foreign loans. Taking loans, he adopted the policy of infrastructure development. Sri Lanka took massive loans, especially from China, and started large and expensive projects such as the Hambantota Port and Matala Rajapakse International Airport. But he did not get the expected returns from these projects. He has to pay the loan installments even today. In the current circumstances, it was expected that China would help Sri Lanka, but so far no such help has been received. China was also not in favor of Sri Lanka turning to the IMF.

Question: What should India learn from the developments in Sri Lanka?

Answer: The circumstances of both the countries are different and they cannot be compared. India is a very big economy and it is performing well as compared to Sri Lanka. Still, when one of our neighboring countries is facing challenges, then both of us should work together in this situation. We should support each other and move forward with this spirit.

Question: There is also a feeling in India that the Sri Lankan rulers encouraged partition there on religious lines and that was also a reason for its position as it is today?

Answer: The resolution of racial and religious issues in Sri Lanka is pending. There was a civil war in Sri Lanka which lasted for decades and then it ended in 2009. Only after this the issue of racial and religious division should have been seriously resolved but it did not happen. Sri Lanka’s other minority communities, including Tamils, Christians and Muslims, have a feeling that they are not equal participants in society. I believe this has also been a factor in the current situation in Sri Lanka. However, at the same time, I would also like to say that all sections of the society were involved in the demonstrations that took place in Sri Lanka in recent times. It was not that there were only people from the majority society in this. Muslims, Tamils ​​and Christians also participated in these demonstrations. So that’s a good sign.

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