- Sri Lanka is strategically placed near the Indian subcontinent and in relation to other states in the South Asian region. In tactful and prudent planning we can become a very prosperous country
With the inauguration of the new President, the seventh Executive in Sri Lanka, many legitimate concerns as well as disturbing questions and issues are being raised vis-s-vis our foreign policy. On the one hand, though a very tiny tear-drop island in the Indian ocean, we live today in a global village, where all countries in many ways are inter-connected, finding themselves drawn invariably into a large net-work of inter-active relationships in order to ensure their future and even survival. As days and decades go by, there are evident signs that it would be impossible for any country, a nation or even an entire continent for that matter to live and carry on as isolated units. The issues that often crop up within the portals of the United Nations Organization bear ample evidence of the globalizing trends of almost all aspects of national life of each country and the international life of the entire commonwealth of nations in the globalized world. Countries have to learn to relate to one another in a salutary way and through a sound and a mature foreign policy tactfully framed enter the arena of globality in a manner not only diplomatic but also humane and socially enriching. It is very unfortunate that when one discusses foreign policy it is limited often only to exchanges in the area of economic cooperation and matters of security. Often these are vitiated by hidden agendas and vested interests that finally make them problematic and contradictory and in the long run end up in. global tragedies.
An important phenomenon we notice when countries enter into treaties is the undue impact that powerful countries exert on less-powerful ones. Sri Lanka’s case is typical in this regard. We have strong neighbours in India and China with whom we are linked through long historical relations and now made more dramatic in the recent inter-national agreements that have been entered upon with infra-structure projects connected with roads and railroads in the transport sector, airports and harbours and tourism in the commercial sector. Some of these projects have been seriously challenged as harmful and detrimental to the country. The most recent economic corridor involved in the Millennium Challenge Corporation sponsored by the USA has come in for severe criticism as much as the Port city project with China, in the capital city.
These projects contain strategically important aspects and hence have to be entered into with great caution and tempered by astute pre-views. Foreign nations, whoever they are, in case they are genuinely interested, should be made most welcome but these moves should be without ceding national assets in terms of land and other natural resources. Foreign direct investments must be encouraged with more projects to enable more and more foreign capital to flow into our country. But let them be done with the best of intentions of cementing our international relations and fostering trust and good will in addition to fiscal benefits. We must not allow our economic needs and appeals for financial assistance become a ploy for the rich and the powerful to exploit us and make us increasingly dependent, thus making our nation a people always with the begging bowl. We must not surrender our sense of honour as a sovereign nation forgetful of the millennia-old civilization and history we have inherited. Let the country negotiate with honour, self-respect and not with a depressed spirit and a sense of insecurity. Our international negotiations and dialogues must rest on a win-win basis to effectively ensure our future in the international scenario.
Our Strategic geo-political Position
It is common knowledge that Sri Lanka is strategically placed near the Indian subcontinent and in relation to other states in the South Asian region. In tactful and prudent planning we can become a very prosperous country as a future commercial hub if our airports and harbours are really working well and effectively managed. Trade and commerce will thus play a pivotal role in the future prosperity of Sri Lanka. Local politics and parliamentary proceedings would prove decisive in our future strategic planning affecting the national economy. In matters of national security, one must defend tooth and nail, our sovereignty as a full-fledged country in the commonwealth of nations and strive to take our due place with honour and dignity. These can never be compromised at any cost in our international dealings. Not only should we maintain healthy and open relationships with our two powerful neighbours, India and China, but look beyond to other countries like Japan, Thailand and South Korea who are linked to us in the religious traditions of Buddhism. Beyond the shores of Asia are the countries of the European Union and other powerful countries in the Americas. Good relations of friendship and co-operation even in the areas of communication and culture will bring in a lot of dividends to our people.
We must not be gripped by undue and unwanted sense of fear and suspicion of anything that is western and be scared of any cultural or economic colonization or imperialism regarding these countries. In the floor of the United Nations we stand equal and on par with any other nation. We enjoy the same right to express our judgments and elucidate our stand-points. It is at the UN through our permanent representative and in the course of the General Assemblies that Sri Lanka can articulate her policy, question undue influence of other countries and defend our rights as a sovereign state to manage our affairs with freedom devoid of any coercion. If questionable and improper resolutions have been made, there can be a stringent demand for changing such formulations as governments change. This bears very much on the issue of war crimes that is annexed to the terrible thirty-year war which brought untold sufferings to the country and caused the decaying of the economy. The human rights questions and the problem of disappearances have to be squarely looked at and justice brought to play around this vexing problem that makes the international community, especially the west smear us. Once this is resolved, we will be at peace and it will ease the burden of national reconciliation. We must take care not to allow this war-time issue spoil our relationships with other countries. The present diplomatic net-work and our embassies world-wide have to be engaged to the maximum for the service of creating fruitful international relations,
There are serious lacunae regarding national security coming from extremist and fundamentalist groups from within the nation and from the winds of global terrorism. Drugs and social evils of enormous proportions have stained the social fabric of the country. Sri Lanka must stand in solidarity with those countries all over the world fighting these social menaces which also at the same time threaten world peace and good international relations. This will secure a drug-free country and deliver it from becoming a drug-hub in Asia. We need therefore to work towards this Sri Lankan identity where all the resources of the land and its people can be synergized for a bright and stable future where race, ethnicity, religion and language differences do not stand in the way of the nation’s journey forward. We need categorically to avoid a type of politics based solely and exclusively on race, language, ethnicity or religion. An integrated and united country will find it an easier task to live up to the noble ideals of democracy with a wise foreign policy sensitive to our national security opening the country to healthy international relations and multi-lateral cooperation. This strategy will pave the way for Sri Lanka to become a secure, viable democracy and a nation on a steady path to economic prosperity.