India sends food and medicine to crisis-stricken Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has received a first shipment of a $16 million humanitarian aid package from neighboring India to help reduce severe shortages caused by the country’s worst economic crisis in recent history

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has received a first shipment of a $16 million humanitarian aid package from neighboring India to help reduce severe shortages caused by the country’s worst economic crisis in recent history.

Gopal Baglay, India’s envoy to Sri Lanka, handed over the donation from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Peiris late on Sunday. The goods, valued at $5.6 million, include rice, milk power and essential medicines.

They will be distributed to vulnerable families in different parts of the country, the Indian embassy said in a statement.

The country’s new prime minister said last week that petrol supplies were running out on a last day, exacerbating commuting problems and lengthening lines. But over the weekend, the cargoes of gasoline paid through an Indian line of credit started coming in.

Sri Lanka has suspended repayment of about $7 billion in foreign loans due this year, of the $25 billion due in 2026. The country’s total external debt is $51 billion.

Separately, India has provided $3.5 billion in economic aid in the form of loans and buyer credit for food, medicine and fuel.

The economic crisis in Sri Lanka has led to political unrest. A protest at the entrance to the president’s office demands his resignation and has continued for the past 40 days. Government supporters attacked the peaceful protesters earlier this month, sparking nationwide riots that killed nine people, including a lawmaker beaten to death.

Many houses and property of incumbent ministers and politicians of the ruling party were burned. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency and gave the police and military broad powers to search, arrest and detain suspects.

The emergency was lifted last Friday after the government failed to request parliament’s approval within 10 days, as required by the constitution.

The protests calling on the president and his family to leave politics led to a near dismantling of the powerful Rajapaksa dynasty, with the president’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigning as prime minister. Before that, two siblings of the president and a cousin resigned as ministers.

The president himself faces the prospect of significantly curtailing his powers to bolster parliament under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is leading negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package.

A constitutional amendment to curtail the president’s powers is expected to be discussed in cabinet later Monday.

Sharing language and culture with the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu is separated by a narrow strait from the north of the island, which is home to the Tamil majority. The donation was requested after dozens of families fled to Tamil Nadu due to the economic crisis.

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