Sri Lanka should reclassify itself as an Indian Ocean country instead of a South Asian country to secure further foreign direct investments (FDIs), exports, tourism and foreign expertise in the future, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
“By and by, we came to be classified as a South Asian country and our own imaginations and those of others turned towards the Indian hinterland. Reclaiming our Indian Ocean identity helps us and others unlock the tremendous opportunities for attracting FDI, accessing markets and developing our tourism industry,” he said.
Samaraweera is envisioning Sri Lanka reclaiming its ancient glory as the link among all nations in the Indian Ocean rim, spanning from Africa, the Arab Gulf, Persia, South Asia, Southeast Asia to Australia and as the centre of the East-West and South-South trade routes.
“Sri Lanka can no longer depend on aid to create jobs, generate growth and improve our living standards,” he said.
Therefore, he expressed that the Foreign Ministry’s new duties would include salesmanship in addition to statesmanship.
“While we look towards the sea, the Indian hinterland and further away China also beckon. As study after study has noted, Sri Lanka’s failure to integrate into Indian supply chains and into the Indian economy in general has significantly hampered our economic development,” Samaraweera noted.
He said that the country’s foreign policy must be aligned to the interests and welfare of all Sri Lankans.
“This of course means cautiously navigating the emerging multipolar regional order, while taking the initiative to harness the tremendous opportunities of the Asian Century,” he concluded.