Sri Lanka has to cooperate with India to develop the crisis-hit island nation, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said today, underlining that the countries also have to join hands to develop the Trincomalee port in the north eastern coast.
President Wickremesinghe was visiting the eastern port district of Trincomalee to inspect the district’s integrated development plan.
“We have to work jointly with India in the development of the Trincomalee port and the oil tank complex,” he said.
“We signed the Trincomalee port agreement in 2003. The trade unions expressed strong opposition to the oil tank agreement then,” President Wickremesinghe said, adding that if India was allowed to operate the oil tanks then Sri Lanka would not have faced the current fuel shortages.
President Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister in 2003 had awarded the Indian Oil Company to develop the 850-acre World War II built oil tanks in Trincomalee for an annual payment of USD 100,000.
The IOC-run 15 oil storage tanks in Trincomalee came to Sri Lanka’s rescue during the ongoing fuel crisis.
The USD 700 million credit line from India ensured Sri Lanka’s fuel supplies at the beginning of the economic crisis when forex shortages caused shortages of essentials leading to public unrest in the island.
“We are currently working with India on renewable energy projects. This will become operational in Trincomalee. We can convert Trincomalee to be our energy hub by using our ties with India,” President Wickremesinghe said.
“We have also agreed with India to develop our industries in this region. I have proposed to set up an industrial zone jointly with India,” President Wickremesinghe said.
Sri Lanka in January inked a deal with a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for the long-gestating project to refurbish and develop the Trincomalee oil farm, an 850-acre storage facility with a capacity of almost one million tonnes.
Cooperation on the Trincomalee tank farm has been followed by Indian assistance for Sri Lanka to overcome its severe economic crisis.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is going through its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 which was triggered by a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves.
In mid-April, Sri Lanka declared its international debt default due to the forex crisis.
The country owes USD 51 billion in foreign debt, of which USD 28 billion must be paid by 2027.
There have been street protests in Sri Lanka against the government since early April due to its mishandling of the economic crisis.
A crippling shortage of foreign reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas, and other essentials while power cuts and soaring food prices have heaped misery on the people.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)