At their first virtual meeting on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa talked about an array of issues, including bilateral debt, infrastructural development and rights of minorities in Sri Lanka.
On the agenda was Colombo’s request for deferring debt repayments. It owes India about $960 million. India has already agreed to a $400-million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka and the latter has now put in a request for an additional swap arrangement worth around $1 billion. The two leaders also discussed the status of several Indian infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka.
Foremost among these is the Eastern Container Terminal in Colombo, a project that India and Japan are hoping to implement. Rajapaksa put this project on hold in the run-up to general elections in August. Colombo made no announcement on the revival of this key project.
This was a bilateral summit. Yet it was a third country, China, the proverbial elephant in the room, that determined its content and outcome. China’s influence in Sri Lanka has grown manifold over the past decade, and India’s engagement of Rajapaksa