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regular-article-logo Thursday, 30 May 2024

Suvendu Adhikari ridicules state of the Sri Lankan economy after Mamata Banerjee’s chance meeting with Ranil Wickremesinghe

Adhikari tweeted fictitious conversation between two and then explained meaning of his tweet during interaction with media at Assembly

Devadeep Purohit Calcutta Published 14.09.23, 06:02 AM
Suvendu Adhikari

Suvendu Adhikari File picture

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s neighbourhood first policy got a new meaning on Wednesday when Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the Bengal Assembly, ended up ridiculing the state of the Sri Lankan economy after Mamata Banerjee’s chance meeting with the island country’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe in Dubai.

After the chief minister posted on social media her meeting with Wickremesinghe and the invitation extended to the Sri Lankan President to the Bengal Global Business Summit, Adhikari tweeted a fictitious conversation between the two and then explained the meaning of his tweet during interaction with the media at the Assembly.

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Following is Adhikari’s tweet on X.

I am guessing what conversation might have taken place between the two :-

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe - I have heard that you are leading your state towards an economic crisis like what Sri Lanka is facing?

Mamata Banerjee - If you can guide me how to borrow more money from the market, I will invite you to attend the next Bengal Global Business Summit.

Ranil Wickremesinghe - But we are not in a position to invest? What good would happen by attending the Summit?

Mamata Banerjee - Don’t worry, you just come and enjoy for 2-3 days and sign an MOU. Anyways everyone comes and signs MOU and nobody invests. I am just concerned about good headlines.”

The tone of the tweet made it clear that Adhikari was using the crisis faced by Sri Lanka last year to take potshots at the condition of the Bengal economy.

Later in the day, when he met reporters on the Assembly premises, Adhikari went a step further and made several comments about the Sri Lankan economy, some of which were contested by foreign policy experts. “I think that Sri Lanka and Bengal are on the same page in terms of economic conditions. The government there (in Sri Lanka) has been driven towards bankruptcy, the current Bengal government has also become insolvent,” he said.

“Why did she invite him (the Sri Lankan President) to the BGBS? Is Sri Lanka in a position to invest here? Then inviting him to attend the BGBS and signing an MoU (memorandum of understanding) is nothing but to campaign before the Lok Sabha elections that investment from Sri Lanka will come to Bengal,” the BJP leader added.

Former foreign secretary Krishnan Srinivasan told this newspaper that he was dismayed by Adhikari’s comments involving the President of a neighbouring country, who had visited India recently and met Modi.

“He needs to consult his bosses to understand the importance of Sri Lanka in our foreign policy.... The relationship between the two countries has never been better. The comments are in poor taste as one cannot demean the neighbours,” he said.

In a recent op-ed article in The Telegraph, Srinivasan and Indrajit Coomaraswamy, the former governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, wrote about how timely help from India and other donors had helped in stabilising the Sri Lankan economy, which resulted in the improvement of macroeconomic indicators.

“.... inflation has declined from about 70% in September 2022 to 12% in June 2023. It should decline to 4%-6% by the end of this year. Fiscal outcomes have improved with a small primary surplus being achieved in the government budget in the first five months of this year. Tight monetary and fiscal policies, import and capital restrictions, and declining commodity prices have contributed to improvement in the balance of payments, the import bill has declined sharply, tourism is recovering and inward remittances are stable. With positive movements in government securities and share markets and $2 billion in reserves as of last June, the shortages in fuel, food, pharmaceuticals and fertiliser have eased significantly,” the duo wrote.

Srinivasan said Adhikari should have known that the Lankan economy was “coming out of the woods.” He has added at a time when the Indian establishment is trying to facilitate the Sri Lankan economy’s recovery by laying stress on greater New Delhi-Colombo economic cooperation, the chief minister did the right thing by inviting the President to the summit.

According to him, if some Sri Lankan investments come here or some businessmen from here go and invest in Sri Lanka, it will fulfil the objective of the Modi government.

A Calcutta-based foreign policy expert echoed Srinivasan and said while the leader of the Opposition had the right to attack Mamata and question the effectiveness of the BGBS, he should not have made adverse comments about the economy of a neighbouring country by bringing its President to the discourse.

“The saffron ecosystem has a tendency to go after the neighbours... Don’t forget how Amit Shah referred to Bangladeshis as termites or the regular reference to Bangladeshis as infiltrators by state BJP leaders or Kukis in Manipur as insurgents from Myanmar. These comments do not conform to the Prime Minister’s neighbourhood first policy,” said the expert.

Attempts to reach Adhikari for a response didn’t yield any response.

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