India on Wednesday said that it will support Sri Lanka in its quest for stability and economic recovery through democratic means.

“As a close friend and neighbour of Sri Lanka and a fellow democracy, we will continue to be supportive of the quest of the people of Sri Lanka for stability and economic recovery, through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework,” the Indian High Commission said in a tweet.

The statement came after former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected as the president of Sri Lanka following a vote in the country’s Parliament.

Wickremesinghe received votes from 134 MPs of the 225-member House. Two MPs abstained from voting and the votes of four legislators were rejected. The former prime minister was up against the Opposition-backed candidate Dullas Alahapperuma and Marxist party leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in a three-way contest.

The voting became necessary after former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned from the post on July 14 amid the island nation’s worst-ever economic crisis.

On Tuesday, the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay, said that New Delhi has always stood with the people of Sri Lanka.

In an interview with India Today, Baglay said that the Centre helped Sri Lanka by providing essential items and support for its foreign currency reserves.

“So far, India has supplied essential items amounting to 1.5 billion US dollars to Sri Lanka,” Baglay told India Today. “Out of this, one line of credit amounting to 500 million dollars was exclusively for fuel.”

He added, “For currency support, we provided a currency swap of 400 million USD and deferred settlements under the Asian Clearing Union close to 1.9 to 2 billion USD by July 6,” said the high commissioner.

The economic crisis

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, has run out of foreign exchange reserves limiting essential imports of fuel, food and medicine. The island nation’s inflation rate touched 54.6% year-over-year in June while food inflation shot up to 80%.

The residents blame the Rajapaksas seven from the family were in the government as of April for the situation.

The economic meltdown led to Sri Lanka defaulting on its $51-billion foreign debt in April. The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package.

The United Nations has warned that more than a quarter of Sri Lankans are at risk of food shortages. Sri Lanka Medical Council has stated that hospitals were running with minimum resources as the country imports more than 80% of its medical supplies. The top medical body also warned that it would not be able to handle any mass casualties due to the protests.

Also read:

  1. The India Fix: What can India learn from Sri Lanka’s stunning collapse under the Rajapaksas?
  2. With the Rajapaksas on the run, a brief history of how Sri Lanka got into this mess