New Delhi July 21: India’s Foreign Secretary, Vinay Kwatra, told the media in New Delhi on Friday after the conclusion of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, that in its economic relations with Sri Lanka, India prefers to take the path of investment and trade rather than extending credit.
Asked how India plans to fund the many projects mentioned in the Vision Statement on India-Sri Lanka relations issued at the end of Modi-Wickremesinghe talks, Kwatra said that India is cognizant of Sri Lanka’s financial position and the debt restructuring that it is engaged in at present. India will, therefore, design its funding in an appropriate manner. A part of the funding will be on credit basis and a part in grants.
On India’s desire to invest in institutions from which the Sri Lankan government plans to withdraw as part of a disinvestment program, Kwatra said that Indian investment will depend on the institutions to be privatized and the terms and conditions for disinvestment set by the Lankan government.
The Indian private sector will also be interested in this area, but its members will have their own considerations, Kwatra added.
As for tariffs and other issues in trade, India and Sri Lanka will be discussing all issues including Non-Tariff Barriers.
Asked about the disbursement of the US$ 4 billion line of credit extended to Sri Lanka by India to tide over the economic crisis, Kwatra said that most of it has been disbursed. A part of the Indian debt will be included in the debt restructuring being worked out and a part will be outside it.
However, India will insist that all creditors are brought under the same conditions with none getting preferential treatment. The allusion was to China, which is keeping its cards close to its chest on this issue.
On India-Sri Lanka connectivity projects, Kwatra said that the idea of giving India land access to the ports of Colombo and Trincomalee was proposed by the Sri Lankan President.
“Both leaders agreed to take this forward through a feasibility study,” Kwatra said, quoting Prime Minister Modi. Modi had said that land connectivity will help bring about economic prosperity to Sri Lanka and India and cohesion to the region.
On the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) between India and Sri Lanka, Kwatra said that it would take two or three months to come into effect with both sides working on the system.
On the Sri Lankan Tamil question, Kwatra reiterated Modi’s statement that India seeks the full implementation of the 13 th,.Amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution devolving power to the provinces.
Asked if the Sri Lankan President gave any assurances on safeguarding India’s concerns about the increasing Chinese foot print in Sri Lanka, Kwatra that the Indian Prime minister had raised the maritime dimension and Wickremesinghe said that he was aware of India’s concerns and sensitivities. The issue was viewed as a “shared challenge,” Kwatra said.