VIF Delegation’s Visit to Colombo and Interaction with Pathfinder Foundation
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A VIF delegation led Dr. Arvind Gupta, comprising of Lt Gen Ravi Sawhney and Dr Sreeradha Datta visited Colombo during 10-14 January. VIF’s think tank partner, the Pathfinder Foundation hosted the delegation and organized many of the interactions and meetings. The delegation met a cross section of officials, political leaders and dignitaries and subject experts too.

The visit was an eye opener in many ways. While the economic turn down of Sri Lanka is common knowledge, the resilience of the island nation was visible in many quarters. One of the most common sentiment that was heard from every interaction was their gratitude to India and a deep appreciation for its timely and unhesitant support, when many of its other friendly nations were not so forthcoming. The Indian support of nearly US 4$ billion over the course of the past 10 months when Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves were very depleted and the country struggled to pay for the import of fuel has been widely noted.

While Sri Lanka is awaiting its 17th IMF bailout, the incorrect policies, fiscal indiscipline, lack of understanding and even empathy about the state of economic distress, rampant corruption were cited as some of the causes for the present state of Sri Lanka.

Although Colombo seemed busy with its usual school and office time traffic, scarcity of food, oil and medicines continue. The city hotels after a distinct lull period seemed to be picking up business but as Sri Lankan Central Bank Governor mentioned, it would be a long way before there was economic stability in the country. The economy had fallen by nearly 10 percent in 2022 and would in all likelihood see further 4 percent dip in 2023. Economy shrinking meant job losses and many other hardships for the people.

The visit to the Colombo port was fascinating and a hugely learning experience. While globally ranked at 22nd position few ranks ahead of Indian Mundhra and Nhava Sheva Port, the operational efficiency was obvious. It was one business that was barely affected by Covid epidemic or the Ukraine crises. Indian investments from Adani group will be adding to the global business that the existing companies were now enjoying. Colombo port complements and supplements Indian port operation was also underlined. While many other Indian investments are in various stages of discussion, the North and East area, battered with three decades of insurgency and war is now increasingly being seen as a zone for economic development and India’s contribution to increasing the regions’ connectivity and develop trade and business interest was being eagerly awaited.

The oncoming local elections in March will be reflective of the people’s mood and it is hoped that it will also pave the way for greater political convergence and stability a much needed balm for the painful wounds that the people of this island nation have long suffered.

Event Date 
January 10, 2023
January 14, 2023

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