Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said Sri Lanka’s focus is not to get into a military alliance with anyone but to go for economic, cultural and political cooperation with every country. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe made this remark at the graduation of the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training institute at BMICH yesterday.
“Sri Lanka’s strategy is to promote free navigation in the Indian Ocean. For this, we have added digital connectivity. Digital connectivity is as important as free navigation. Digital connectivity will put us in a position to deal with countries and build relationships - be it India, China, Japan, European Union, US, Australia or Russia. We have made the Indian Ocean our key strategy. We are thinking of how we could leverage ourselves. We have to remember that the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean means there will be no military alliance with anyone but economic, cultural and political cooperation with everyone. We also have to be mindful of the mutual security interests of India and Sri Lanka. Based on this, Sri Lanka will also look at its own development strategy and security strategy where we will have to focus more on the role we play in the Indian Ocean. This will mean a changing of the role of the navy and the air force. They will have to look outside our coastal waters,” the Prime Minister said.
“We also have to take up the blue economy in the Indian Ocean. We have to be a key party in the blue economy around the Indian Ocean. We also have to look at climate change in the region. Sri Lanka can play a role in these aspects when it comes to the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka has been having an active foreign policy and we should continue with it,” he added.
“Sri Lanka has been looking at trade and currently dealing with Asia. The problem in Asia is the absence of a comprehensive regional economic agreement. There is one that is being discussed but still, it has not been finalised. We thought this is the time for us to start and not wait for the regional agreements. SAARC is any way dormant. We have to start negotiating. We, therefore, have the Indian Trade Agreement that has the potential to work with many of the Bay of Bengal countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Bangladesh. We have to go by ourselves and not wait for the regional arrangements which will never take place,” he also said. (Yohan Perera)
Pics by Pradeep Pathirana