‘The next time you want to take a holiday, go to Sri Lanka’ – Jaishankar to Indians

S. Jaishankar - Subrahmanyam Jaishankar

Commenting on the recent aid extended by India to Sri Lanka at a crucial juncture during the country’s most severe and unprecedented economic crisis, India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar has urged all Indians to visit Sri Lanka, emphasising the strong ties between the two nations.

“My first advice would be, the next time you want to take a holiday, go to Sri Lanka”, he said.

Responding to questions from students at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Mumbai on ‘India’s role in the global stage’, Dr. Jaishankar provided a detailed account of the economic woes faced by Sri Lanka during this time, and the unwavering support extended by India.

“Mix with the normal person in Sri Lanka and ask them what do you think about India, and I can tell you, you will feel yourself grow with that answer”, he said.

Talking about the extreme fuel and food crises in the island which the Indian Foreign Minister said he himself witnessed during his visit to Sri Lanka at the time, Dr. S, Jaishankar highlighted that the country was ‘unable to secure essential commodities, running out of food, and had petrol queues running for kilometres’.

“At a time where the rest of the world turned its back on Sri Lanka, the only country which came forward, and not in a small way”, India’s External Affairs Minister emphasised, adding that India had committed USD 4.5 billion to Sri Lanka.

Emphasisng that monetary support to Sri Lanka should have ideally been extended by the International Money Fund (IMF), Dr. S. Jaishankar further highlighted that although this assistance was given later, it amounted to ‘less than USD 3 billion’.

“What we did immediately, quickly and efficiently, was 50% bigger than what the IMF did, and no other country came close”, he stated.

Responding to a question raised as to whether the shift in the geopolitical alignment of India’s longest standing regional partners, including Sri Lanka, towards China, was indicative of the ‘perceived failure’ of India’s Neighborhood First Policy, the Minister said, “I think this idea that somewhere, neighbours are turning against us and we are failing, we need to have more confidence”.

While admitting that China too, is a neighbouring country, Dr. S. Jaishankar stated that China, in many ways, as part of competitive politics, will inevitably influence surrounding countries.

“I don’t think we should be scared, I think we should say okay, global politics is a competitive game, you do your best, I will do my best”, Dr. Jaishankar said when asked about the way in which India could respond to China’s strategic expansion within the Indian Ocean region.

“Today, China is a major economy, it will deploy resources, it will try and shape things in China’s way, why should we expect otherwise, but the answer to that is not to complain that China’s dong it, the answer is okay, if you’re doing it, let me do it better than that”, the Minister stated.

Dr. S. Jaishankar also emphasised that the suggested notion that the country’s Neighbour First Policy is a failure is untrue, saying “You are right, there is competition, you are wrong that it’s a failure. I would say today, as India, we should not be scared of competition, we should welcome competition and say “I have the ability to compete””.