The Indian High Commission in Colombo on Wednesday dismissed reports about New Delhi sending its troops to Sri Lanka amid the unprecedented economic crisis in the island nation.
Protests had erupted outside the Trincomalee Naval Base in the northeastern part of Sri Lanka after local media reports emerged that former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had sought refuge there. On Monday, Rajapaksa had resigned from his post amid the anti-government protests.
“The high commission has recently noticed rumours circulating in sections of media and social media that certain political persons and their families have fled to India,” it said in an earlier tweet on Tuesday. “These are fake and blatantly false reports, devoid of any truth or substance.”
On Wednesday, the Indian High Commission categorically denied “speculative media reports” about India sending its military troops to Sri Lanka, noting that it is not in line with the position of the government of India.
“The spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs of India clearly stated yesterday [May 10] that India is fully supportive of Sri Lanka’s democracy, stability and economic recovery,” the commission added.
India’s foreign ministry had on Tuesday said that New Delhi will be guided by the “best interests of the Sri Lankan people expressed through democratic processes”.
The spokesperson for the ministry, Arindam Bagchi, said that India has extended support worth over $3.5 billion (about Rs 27,007.22 crore) to the island country to help it overcome its difficulties.
Hundreds of protestors have been holding sit-in demonstrations in the country since last month as Sri Lanka plunged into public debt, leading to its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. With the country’s foreign currency reserves dwindling, Sri Lankans are facing shortages of medicines, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items.
Chaos ensued after eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured in protests against the government’s handling of the economic crisis on Monday, hours after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the prime minister.
Following the violence, the Sri Lanka defence ministry on Tuesday granted powers to the armed forces to open fire at anyone looting public property or causing harm to others. The authorities also granted emergency powers to military and police personnel to detain citizens without warrants. Under the order, military personnel can detain citizens for up to 24 hours before handing them over to the police.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday urged citizens to join hands to tackle the economic meltdown. “I urge all Sri Lankans to reject the subversive attempts to push you towards racial and religious disharmony,” he said. “Promoting moderation, toleration and coexistence is vital.”
The Sri Lankan president will hold talks with ruling party dissidents and the Opposition on Wednesday to end the political deadlock to find a successor to the outgoing prime minister, The Indian Express reported.