Sri Lanka must recalculate its foreign policies - PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe said there is a global shift of power to Asia and Sri Lanka has to recalculate its foreign policies to become a meaningful player in the region.

Addressing the annual convocation of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) yesterday at the BMICH, Prime Minister said that unfortunately, Sri Lanka has been focusing on Development than International Relations.

“Our attention was fully occupied to end the war and thereafter human rights issues and international relations was connected to it. That became the political language while rest of the world was changing in different directions”, he said.

He noted that 2015, was very important for the foreign policy of Sri Lanka and measures were taken to sort out many issues. “We have come to agreements concerning human rights and there is only a question of implementation, which will be done gradually”, he added.

He said that now the world focus is on Asia and they are very keen to know what is happening in China, India and Japan.

Prime Minister emphasised that in a such background, Sri Lanka needs to re-position itself.

“We have good relations with India, Japan and China. I have not come across any other country in the region that has the same level of relations with India, China and Japan as Sri Lanka. We have to safeguard the independent relations and never try to play one against the other. And take initiatives to strengthen the relations”, he explained.

He further said that two important factors that shape the foreign policy of Sri Lanka and the role it can play in the region are the strategic location and the political relations the country has with the key players in the region - India, China and Japan.

The Prime Minister noted that the key players are competing for economic power and it has now moved to the Indian Ocean.

“While we keep good relations with these countries, we also have to understand the nature of rivalry and we should never get caught into that rivalry”, he said.

He added that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to join the One Belt and One Road Initiative, (OBOR) in 2013 and subsequently President Maithripala Sirisena also reaffirmed.

Prime Minister pointing out that many people question about it, said that it was an initiative related to Chinese development and it started by pumping money and aid and subsequently it turned more economic.

“We will not be dominated by Chinese, I think countries in our region are very good at using these opportunities”, he said.

The Prime Minister further noted that even though some say that the government has allowed Hambantota to become a Chinese naval base, the security of both harbour and the airport lies with Sri Lanka.

“As far as we maintain the neutrality and maintain friendships, there is no problem”, he said.

He also added hat Japan and India has shown interest in developing the ports in Sri Lanka and the strategic location matter to the other countries.

“If we can build this to be a transhipment hub in a centre of connectivity in the Indian Ocean, it is much better for our country”, he said.

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