India stands with people of Sri Lanka: MEA on dramatic political developments in Colombo

The comments are seen as India's expectation for a smooth transition of power within the constitutional framework of the country.

New Delhi: India on Sunday said it stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their “aspirations” for progress through democratic means and constitutional framework, a day after the country’s embattled president agreed to step down after thousands of protesters stormed his residence.

In its first reaction following the unprecedented developments in Colombo, India also said that it continues to closely follow the developments in Sri Lanka and that it is aware of the many challenges that the country and its people have been facing.

“India stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established institutions and constitutional framework,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, in a carefully crafted statement.

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Some protesters also set Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private house on fire, in reflection of raging anger over the nation’s debilitating economic crisis. Wickremesinghe also announced that he would resign.

“India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and our two countries share deep civilizational bonds. We are aware of the many challenges that Sri Lanka and its people have been facing, and we have stood with the Sri Lankan people as they have tried to overcome this difficult period,” Bagchi said.

The comments are seen as India’s expectation for a smooth transition of power within the constitutional framework of the country.

Sri Lanka’s main Opposition parties on Sunday agreed to form an all-party interim government after the anticipated resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday.

In responding to media queries on the situation in Sri Lanka, Bagchi also referred to India’s financial assistance to the island nation this year.

“In pursuance of the central place that Sri Lanka occupies in our Neighbourhood First policy, India has extended this year itself an unprecedented support of over USD 3.8 billion for ameliorating the serious economic situation in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Separately, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Thiruvananthapuram that there were no security concerns for India over the political unrest in Sri Lanka as the people in the island nation and the world over have appreciated what New Delhi has done for the neighbouring country

“The answers to Sri Lanka’s problems are in Sri Lanka itself,” he told reporters.

Jaishankar also said that there was no refugee crisis following the developments in Sri Lanka as of now.

“I do not think we can call it a crisis. Occasionally, some people have come from there, but right now I do not think there is any justification for calling it a refugee crisis,” he said.

Asked about India’s reaction to the developments in Sri Lanka, Ambassador Ashok K Kantha, who served as the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo from 2009 to 2013, described it as “balanced and carefully-crafted”.

He said, essentially India was supportive of the “democratic processes playing out in Sri Lanka” and hopefully it will result in greater stability over a period of time.

“They are faced with an unprecedented economic crisis and they need a political dispensation that can take difficult decisions. So let’s hope that there will be a government of national unity or all-party government which will be sworn in soon,” he told PTI.

“Our hope and expectations are that there will be smooth transition within the constitutional framework,” he said.

The island nation is reeling under severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines in the last few months as the economic crisis deteriorated.

As the economic crisis worsened, Sri Lanka witnessed massive street protests in the last months and the public anger led almost all the cabinet ministers to quit the government.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister in May to deal with the situation.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, elder brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, stepped down as prime minister on May 9 after massive anti-government protests rocked the country.

There were growing calls for resignation by Gotabaya Rajapaksa which he had been ignoring.

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