Says Sri Lanka needs to look on how it could benefit from India
Sri Lanka cannot endanger the national security of India when creating foreign policies, while opportunities exist to piggyback on the growth of the Northern neighbour, Public Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne said.
“It is given that whatever we do in our foreign policy, it cannot endanger India’s national security. I think that is something we need to understand when making our foreign policy and it’s something we have understood. That’s why we will remain non-aligned and independent,” he said.
This may shed some light on why the present government decided to re-negotiate the Port City deal with the Chinese government and tweak the provisions relating to the freehold land in the original agreement. China recently placed missile batteries and stateof- the-art radars on islands reclaimed from reefs in the South China Sea, whose ownerships are under dispute.
China and India are Sri Lanka’s largest tourism generating markets, and the growth rate of Chinese arrivals may see India slipping to the second place in the coming years.
Wickramaratne, a banker by trade, said that while the government will continue its relationship with China, it cannot ignore India, since the immediate neighbour will replace China as the world’s engine of growth for the next 10-20 years. “In one way we have a great opportunity; sitting next to one of the biggest markets in the world.
Therefore we need to really take a serious look on how we’re going to benefit from this,” he said. He said that all countries around India may be having the same feelings as Sri Lanka, but such sentiments are not unique to this part of the world either. “All small countries around the United States also feel like that.
‘How do we engage the big power? How do we engage the big market to our benefit?’ Those are the questions. Many countries which are situated next to big countries have succeeded in that endeavour. We need to do that,” he said. Meanwhile, on the proposed Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA), he said that protests are natural from parties who have the most to lose. “But national interests must always prevail over costs to some sectors.
Those who oppose will either have to become more productive or go out of business. It is proven that trade benefits the consumer,” he said. Wickramaratne added that the free movement of people may be introduced gradually in the future if people warm up to the idea.