Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday congratulated his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa on having completed 50 years in the Sri Lankan parliament.
In a telephone conversation, Modi recalled Rajapaska’s “contributions to the development of Sri Lanka in his long political career, and wished him all the best for his future,” a statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.
Modi also “conveyed his condolences at the sudden and untimely demise yesterday (on Tuesday) of Arumugan Thondaman, a prominent leader of the Indian-Origin Tamils in Sri Lanka. Prime Minister recalled the role that Mr. Thondaman had played in taking forward the development partnership between India and Sri Lanka,” the statement said.
“The leaders discussed the health and economic impact of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and the measures being taken in the two countries to counter them. Prime Minister assured Rajapaksa that India stands ready to extend all possible support to Sri Lanka during this challenging time,” the statement added.
The call on Wednesday to Rajapaksa comes days after Modi spoke to Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It indicates Modi’s outreach to the Sri Lankan leadership who have been seen as closer to China in the past.
Recently, China moved in with a $ 500 million loan from it’s central bank at reduced interest rates. China is already one of the biggest investors in various infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. But there has been criticism, both locally and internationally, and growing concerns that China has lured Sri Lanka into a debt trap.
So far India has sent consignments of medicines to Sri Lanka as donation. India has traditionally considered the Indian Ocean region and countries in its immediate neighbourhood as within its sphere of influence. But China is now increasingly making its presence felt in the Indian Ocean region through its investments through the signature Belt and Road Initiative as well as through an increased naval presence.