The President expects to gain maximum benefits from the development spaces in the Indian Ocean region – Foreign Minister Ali Sabry

Jul 25, 2023 | News, Sri Lanka Media Release

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s desire is to make the most of the development opportunities in the Indian Ocean region, which is the world’s largest emerging economic region.

Today, no country in the world can advance alone, and every developed country in the world has made progress through regional partnerships, the minister said, adding that the President’s program is to fulfill the development expectations of Sri Lanka by developing Indo-Sri Lankan relations in a manner that benefits both parties and does not threaten them.

Minister Sabry stated this while attending the press conference held at the Presidential Media Centre this morning (22) to inform about the two-day official visit of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to India and the vision of India-Sri Lanka Economic Partnership.

Emphasizing that the President or the government will never do anything that threatens the country, the minister also said that it is the government’s aim to implement those activities with the full understanding and agreement of all parties.

 Ali Sabry, Minister of Foreign Affairs, further commented:

“We firmly believe that fostering a robust and enduring relationship with our close and longstanding partner, India, holds significant advantages for both Sri Lanka and the entire region. Acknowledging the prevailing consensus that approximately 2/3 of the world’s total growth will unfold in the Asia Pacific region over the next few decades, it is widely recognized that India and China will play pivotal roles in leading this growth.

In light of these realities, President Ranil Wickramasinghe emphasizes the need to capitalize on the vast development opportunities presented by the Indian Ocean region. Drawing parallels with successful models seen in the European Union, Middle Eastern countries, China, and the North American region, we are determined to harness similar development dynamics.

Recently, President Wickramasinghe conducted a two-day official visit to India, engaging in crucial discussions with key stakeholders. Notable meetings were held with Indian Foreign Minister Dr. Jayashankar, India’s Chief Defence Adviser, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alongside other members of the Sri Lankan delegation.

India’s invaluable assistance during past economic crises, including financial relief and leadership in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, has been instrumental for Sri Lanka. President Wickremesinghe expressed heartfelt gratitude to Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government for their unwavering support on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government and its people.

Additionally, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, we convened discussions to further enhance our economic, social, and people-to-people ties.

Recognizing that progress to the next stage for Sri Lanka necessitates investments and market opportunities, we firmly believe that a collaborative approach with India will yield substantial benefits. Discussions with Prime Minister Modi included not only intergovernmental matters but also emphasized collaboration between the private sectors to reach mutually beneficial agreements.

An important consideration was the possibility of adopting the Indian rupee as a valid currency in Sri Lanka, with anticipated arrangements to facilitate seamless business transactions for Indian tourists visiting our country, similar to the successful approach adopted with Singapore.

Furthermore, we explored avenues to bolster the strong relationship between India and Sri Lanka. Current daily flights operating between India and Palali Airport and the potential for a future passenger ferry service were among the topics discussed. Improving internal airline relations was also a key area of inquiry.

The prospect of promoting cruise tourism emerged as an appealing initiative to strengthen ties in the tourism sector, given its attraction to Indian tourists and its potential to revitalize Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.

With the South Indian region experiencing rapid development, both nations’ leaders recognized the strategic importance of connecting ports to ensure Sri Lanka can leverage the economic growth in Tamil Nadu, Andhra, and Telangana. Scholars are actively engaged in discussions to devise a framework for establishing these port connections, leading to a consensus among leaders to present it to the Parliament for a decision.

Anticipating that renewable energy could meet 70% of our country’s national electricity needs by 2030, we are keen to explore the market potential for exporting surplus energy. Deliberations on creating a conducive environment for the export of solar and wind power were extensive, culminating in a memorandum of understanding to facilitate collaborative efforts. Furthermore, opportunities for cooperation in green hydrogen and green ammonia through innovative technologies were explored.

In recognition of the significance of technical knowledge for the advancement of our agricultural sector, a memorandum of understanding was signed to acquire expertise in various fields, including animal husbandry and dairy production.

Appreciating India’s substantial progress in digitization, we sought technical assistance to accelerate our own digitization efforts in Sri Lanka.

In the realm of education, collaboration between Indian and Sri Lankan universities was bolstered, with contemplation on the possibility of investing in establishing a prominent Indian university within our borders.

Turning our attention to the plantation Tamil community of Indian origin residing in Sri Lanka for the past two centuries, India has expressed its commitment to implementing several programs aimed at their progress, with a notable investment of 750 million Indian Rupees.

The prospect of establishing a university in the Nuwara Eliya area was also a subject of discussion, paving the way for future agreements.

Attention was devoted to addressing the concerns of the fishing community, with a focus on gradually halting bottom trawlers in the North and seeking opportunities for Sri Lankan fishermen to operate beyond the Indian border. Constructive dialogue between the two parties remains the cornerstone for resolving these issues.

Lastly, both sides unanimously agreed on the imperative of maintaining the entire Indian Ocean region as a safe zone, acting collectively with the utmost commitment to safeguard mutual security.

In conclusion, our President’s visit to India has served as a significant platform for strengthening cooperation and collaboration between our nations. We look forward to translating the shared vision into concrete actions that will yield lasting benefits for Sri Lanka, India, and the entire region.”

(Source: President’s Media Division, 22 July 2023)