High Commission of Sri Lanka in India

Exclusive! 'We know India’s growing stature; we will not jeopardize security of our big brother' PDF Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info) E-mail
Friday, 23 February 2024 06:04

Anish Kumar 

Sri Lanka reassures India that it won't allow its land to be used by any third country to compromise India's security. Sri Lanka’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya spoke exclusively to Asianet Newsable's Anish Kumar

First Published Feb 23, 2024, 8:58 AM IST

Sri Lanka has reiterated that its land will not be used by any third country to jeopardise India’s security concerns, amidst the Chinese spy vessel docking in the Maldives waters on the same day. On the sidelines of the 9th edition of Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, Sri Lanka’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya told Asianet Newsable: "India should not be worried about the security concern. We know India’s growing stature and we will not be used by any third party or country to jeopardize India’s security. So through honest and candid exchange of views, we can overcome any problem."

Till October 2023, China was allowed to dock its spy ship in Sri Lankan waters amidst India’s fears that the vessel could be used to surveil the region. However, earlier this year Colombo banned entry of the Chinese research vessel in its waters, which is seen as growing cooperation in the wake of New Delhi stepping in with massive financial and material assistance.

In reply to a question on whether China still has an influence in Sri Lanka, Tharaka Balasuriya said: "Both countries are our friends. But in India's case, we have a special relationship and it is a civilizational link. If you read 'Mahavamsa' the people of Sri Lanka came from India. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country and Buddhism came from India. It is much stronger like a big brother and small brother like the relationship between two countries."

"China is an important trading partner so the other countries are. If you look at most of our exports, they go to Europe and the United States. So they are also important trading partners. And if you look at the quantum of trade that India does with China and ours with China, it is very miniscule. Sri Lanka is a very small country and we don’t have any huge international political ambitions. But we want to do trade with countries and ensure that the people of Sri Lanka will benefit,” the Sri Lankan minister said.

Assuring New Delhi on security concerns, he said: "We are open for business with any country. But when it comes to India we have a special relationship. I think India should not be worried about our relationship with China. It’s not only with China, we have good relations with Western countries, the US, Russia, and the Middle East.”

As part of a broader strategy to rejuvenate the tourism sector, Balasuriya invited tourists from India to visit his country and explore the island nation. 

In December 2023, in order to boost the tourism sector, Sri Lanka announced issuing free tourist visas until March for visitors from seven countries -- India, China, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

"Sri Lanka is a very beautiful country and there is something for everybody. You have hill country, you have stupas, you have Ramayana trail, and you have wildlife. Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where you can see the world’s largest animal, the blue whale and on the other side in the land area you can see the elephant. I strongly suggest Indians to come to Sri Lanka with family and see the beauty and enjoy our hospitality."

On India’s aid during Sri Lanka's worst economic crisis last year, Balasuriya said: "The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is at an all-time high. I also appreciate what India did to us last year when we were going through a tough time. We didn’t have fuel, we didn’t have gas and medicine. Then India stepped in in a big way with a USD 4.5 billion loan which helped Sri Lanka with the essentials at that time.”

He also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for their support.

"…With the IMF negotiations, India’s finance minister was pretty much part of the Sri Lankan team. It is also a testament to Prime Minister Modi’s foreign policy. He has spoken of Neighbourhood First policy and it's not just words but shown by action that Neighbourhood First policy actually works,” the minister said.

Courtesy : https://newsable.asianetnews.com )