Two days after Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked by President Maithripala Sirisena, India today said it is keeping a close watch on the politicial developments in the island nation to ensure that "democratic values" are respected.
Sri Lanka was plunged into a constitutional crisis after its president unexpectedly gave the post of prime minister to political strongman Mahinda Rajapakse, who was sworn in on Friday night. Even as the country was recovering from the shock, its speaker -- Karu Jayasuriya -- today declared that Mr Wickremesinghe remains the lawful prime minister in spite of Mr Sirisena's action.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "India is closely following the recent political developments in Sri Lanka. As a democracy and a close friendly neighbour, we hope that democratic values and the constitutional process will be respected."
"We will continue to extend our developmental assistance to the friendly people of Sri Lanka," he added.
Ousted prime minister Wickremesinghe insists that the sacking is illegal because he continues to hold a majority in the country's 225-member legislature. "I have the majority and I remain as the prime minister and I will function as the prime minister," he said.
Mr Rajapaksa later said "the people" had requested his party to take over the government, and called on Mr Wickremesinghe's supporters to respect democracy and the rule of law by bowing to their wishes.
India has long seen Sri Lanka as part of its area of influence and had been concerned about Mr Rajapaksa's wooing of China. In recent weeks, both Mr Rajapaksa and Mr Wickremesinghe visited India and met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
(With inputs from agencies)