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Indian FM Jaishankar to Visit Sri Lanka to Deepen Trade, Defense Ties - Report

© AP Photo / Charles DharapakIndia's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. S. Jaishankar
India's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. S. Jaishankar - Sputnik India, 1920, 06.01.2023
India became a major source of support in 2022 for the island nation of Sri Lanka, which is facing its worst financial crisis in over 70 years.
Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is expected to visit Sri Lanka this month for two days of bilateral talks, a Sri Lankan media outlet reported.
While the exact dates of the visit are reportedly still being finalized, it is expected to mark Jaishankar's first trip to Sri Lanka since President Ranil Wickremesinghe took office last July.
However, the Indian government has not yet confirmed Jaishankar's visit to Sri Lanka. When contacted by Sputnik, an official stated, "At the moment, I have no information to share on any visit to Sri Lanka by the External Affairs Minister."
This visit follows recent interactions between high-level officials in Sri Lanka and the head of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Samant Kumar Goel.
Additionally, India's Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Anil Chauhan held telephonic interactions with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Gen. L.H.S.C. Silva, on Thursday. The meeting came after a visit to Sri Lanka by Indian Navy chief R. Hari Kumar.

“India reiterated support for capability building towards strengthening security in the region,” the Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka said on Thursday.

India and China have been engaged in a diplomatic disagreement over the docking of a Chinese survey vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, at Sri Lanka's Hambantota port last August. The Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka, Qi Zhenhong, criticized India's objections to the vessel's presence, citing what he referred to as "a history of aggression against Sri Lanka by India," which he described as its "northern neighbor." In response, India's High Commission in Colombo accused Zhenhong of violating basic diplomatic etiquette and suggested that his view of India may be influenced by China's own behavior.
During Jaishankar's visit to Sri Lanka, the two sides are expected to review the progress of projects in agreed-upon areas, including a four-point package that was established during a crisis period in which India extended $4 billion in financial assistance to Sri Lanka in the form of loans, deferred payments, and currency swap arrangements. India has been seeking greater connectivity and investment with Sri Lanka, particularly in the port and energy sectors.
In the past few weeks, India re-established air connectivity between Jaffna and Chennai, as well as the ferry links between northern Sri Lanka and southern ports in India.
Sri Lanka is seeking to expand its existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India into a comprehensive Economic and Technology Agreement. The current FTA primarily covers trade in goods and Sri Lanka is looking to add services and investment provisions to the agreement.
The talks for this expansion have been ongoing since 2018 and Sri Lanka is hoping to strengthen its economic ties with its northern neighbor through this agreement.
The island nation is facing its worst financial crisis in over 70 years, triggered by a severe shortage of foreign exchange, which has left the country struggling to pay for essential resources such as fuel, food, and medicine.
With a population of 22 million, Sri Lanka has turned to India for assistance in overcoming the crisis.