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NO NEW FRIENDS

Narendra Modi is facing cronyism allegations over a power project in Sri Lanka

REUTERS/Amit Dave
A friend in deed…
  • Niharika Sharma
By Niharika Sharma

Reporter based in New Delhi.

Published

Prime minister Narendra Modi, often accused of promoting his “friends” Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, is now facing a similar allegation in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

It was reported on June 11 that the head of Sri Lanka’s electricity authority was asked by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to award a 500-megawatt wind power project to India’s Adani group. The pressure, he said, came from the Indian prime minister.

BJP’s cronyism has now crossed Palk Strait and moved into Sri Lanka. pic.twitter.com/Uy2w6szHNP

— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 12, 2022

Rajapaksa has, however, denied the allegation.

By last night (June 12), MMC Ferdinando, chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board, too, had retracted his statement, saying he had become “emotional” over some questions asked by Sri Lanka’s parliamentary committee of public enterprises.

India’s role in Sri Lanka’s economic crisis

Sri Lanka is going through an unprecedented economic tumult with the government facing a nationwide protest over the past many weeks.

India has often stepped in with aid to help the country wade through the crisis. It may also have won key deals of economic and geostrategic interest to it in return for such timely help.

It is amid all this that the row over “promoting” the Adani group of India has erupted.

Modi has been often accused of putting the interest of the country’s richest billionaires, Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, before anyone else. The two businessmen, who also hail from Modi’s native state of Gujarat, have also been often called Modi’s closest allies by his critics.

Adani Group’s presence in Sri Lanka

The Adani group has increased its presence in the island nation considerably.

In October 2021, its chief Gautam Adani met president Rajapaksa over the investment opportunities. Six months later, the group signed a memorandum of understanding to set up two renewable energy projects. The terms of the agreement, which haven’t been public, raised transparency concerns.

The group also bagged a contract to develop and run the strategically significant Western Container Terminal of Colombo Port, with a 51% stake.

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