Maintaining a steady and deep relationship with India on the economy and security is a sine-qua-non for Sri Lanka’s progress.
Unveiling the foreign policy of a future SJB government, MP Eran Wickramaratne talked on the importance of maintaining good relations with China, India and all key nations that use the Indian Ocean to ensure strategic harmony in this region promoting security and stability of Sri Lanka.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday (Feb 23), the SJB lawmaker said;
"We are basically a small island nation in the Indian Ocean. We are covered by very big powers in Asia as well as global superpowers. Our foreign policy in that sense is the defence of the State. Therefore, it is very important that we get our foreign policy correct.
Our economy is dependent on global markets because it raises the standard of living of Sri Lankans. We have to sell our goods and services to the global market. That is the only way we can raise our living standards because our markets are too small for us to raise our living standards.
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike addresses the 5th Non-Aligned Summit at the BMICH in Colombo in 1976.
But we strongly defend our independence. We have to be an independent country and therefore foreign policy is absolutely critical for our defence. When I think back even as Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike elucidated Sri Lankan foreign policy as a non-aligned foreign policy and following it, she became the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. Under the current context, the phrase non-aligned is out of fashion as the concept does not exist now.
However, as a country, we have to look at Sri Lanka’s interests, defence, independence and living standards of its people. We have to engage with the world not as non-aligned but as a multi-aligned country which could protect our independence. Countries should never provide military bases to any military power. Enter into a treaty based on military alliances. It doesn’t matter which government is in power as we need to be realistic about what our position is.
But it should not prevent Sri Lanka from practicing a multi-aligned foreign policy in line with our national interest of promoting economic and social development and democracy. Joint military exercises, especially naval exercises with all friendly and inter-operable nations in the region and beyond must be welcomed as it helps enhance the capacities of our own security forces, especially the Navy with the ability to safeguard a country's security both in land and sea.
In addition, Sri Lanka must work with the UN closely to enhance our contribution to the UN peacekeeping operations for the benefit of our own security forces and to enhance the profile of Sri Lanka internationally. At the moment, Sri Lanka’s share of UN peacekeepers is far below our regional peers and it is on the decline after the defeat of the Yahapalana government following the constitutional coup. We focused on this during that period and increased our participation in UN peacekeeping forces but has declined since then. Unless Sri Lanka seriously addresses reconciliation issues and accountability in terms of human rights it is highly unlikely that situation will change.
The prerequisites to promoting major investments are accountability and transparency which aren't to be seen under this government. Sri Lanka must return to the ongoing forum of vibrant democracies of the world which are in fact thriving economies with a view to benefitting with the resultant of social and economic links will enable raising the standards and well being of all Sri Lankans.
As an Island nation at the centre of the orient, Sri Lanka must be close to major powers for mutual benefits but relations each cannot be a zero sum in relation to another. The US, like the EU, is our major market and relations with those countries as well as the UK must be further nurtured taking into account common values and interests like democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law and we have to examine why the US and EU major corporations have no major investments in Sri Lanka.
Relations with China as one of the most important commercial partners must be deepened with a view to creating more balanced bilateral trade. India is the closest partner nation in all aspects especially economy and security and maintaining a steady and deep relationship with India is a sine-qua-non for Sri Lanka’s progress in all its aspects. We must work with China, India and all key nations that use the Indian Ocean to ensure strategic harmony in this region promoting security and stability, much needed to ensure sustained economic progress for all nations in the Indian Ocean."