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President pledges cooperation with India, other countries

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the closing ceremony of the second Indian Ocean Conference held at Temple Trees yesterday. Picture by Sudath Malaweera.

Closing the second annual Indian Ocean conference Friday evening, President Maithripala Sirisena said Sri Lanka would work to promote peace and prosperity in the region.

“We appreciate peace between our countries, we appreciate peace between every ethnic group,” he said in a speech at Temple Trees.

But Sirisena said that drug and human traffickers, pirates, and international terrorists threatened the stability of the region.

From its place at the center of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka would work to promote “peace, reconciliation, and brotherhood,” he said. “We can be useful for sharing knowledge, global trade, and working towards the progress of humankind.”

Speaking just before President Sirisena, General V.P. Malik, a former chief of staff of the Indian army, said the gathering will promote lasting relationships for the future.

“To my mind, everyone I noticed wanted more of globalization, and less of protectionism or domination,” he said. “This is indeed quite different to what we see in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.”

A day earlier, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe defended the government’s recent decision to lease a majority stake of the Hambantota Port to China Merchants Port Holdings, a state-run company, which reportedly concerned some in New Delhi.

He said that because there is no multilateral trade agreement in the Indian Ocean region, Sri Lanka had to enter bilateral agreements with individual states.

Additionally, “I state clearly that Sri Lanka’s government, headed by President Maithripala Sirisena, does not enter into military alliances with any country or make our bases available to foreign countries,” he said.

The conference, which is organized by the India Foundation, closed on Friday night, after playing the national anthems of Sri Lanka and India.