Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has thanked India, saying the closest neighbor has given ‘a breath of life’ to the country that was economically ailing with major shortages of essential items such as food, fuel, medicine, and many more.
“I wish to specially mention the assistance provided by India, our closest neighbor, in our efforts in economic revitalization. The Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given us a breath of life,” Wickremesinghe said delivering his maiden Presidential Policy statement in Parliament.
“On behalf of my people and that of my own, I convey our gratitude to Prime Minister Modi, the Government, and the people of India,” the Sri Lankan President said.
President Wickremesinghe said that had the oil tanks in Trincomalee at Sri Lanka’s Eastern coast developed together with India, the fuel crisis would not have worsened.
“When we tried to develop the oil tank complex in Trincomalee together with India, it was stated that Sri Lanka would be a sell-out to India, and this development project was halted. If at that time we were allowed to develop the oil tank complex, today people would not have to spend many days in queues for fuel,” Wickremesinghe charged.
He was also grateful for the free ambulance service gifted by India in 2016 when he was leading the government as the Prime Minister and noted that “thousands of lives have been saved”.
He also expressed gratitude for the Indian grant of $7.56 million, the ‘Suwa Seriya’ meaning ‘a journey for good health’ started in the Western and Southern provinces with nearly 90 ambulances and later expanded to cover all nine provinces with nearly 300 ambulances, purchased from Tata Motors – with an additional Indian grant of $15.09 million.
He also stressed the importance of maintaining a non-aligned foreign policy for the Indian Ocean island nation for cordial and friendly relationships with all countries.
While Sri Lanka holds historic, cultural, and ethnic ties with India, the other major superpower in the region, China, the island’s largest bilateral creditor and trade partner has been in a race to mark its presence throughout the country.
However, according to reports while China has still provided the economically bankrupt country with humanitarian assistance of a mere US$74 million, India from January onwards has assisted with nearly $4 billion assistance for food, fuel, and medicine.