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PM+says+Sri+Lanka+bases+will+not+make+available+for+foreign+countries+for+military+purposes
Friday, 01 September 2017 - 11:22
PM says Sri Lanka bases will not make available for foreign countries for military purposes
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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says the Government does not enter into military alliances with any country or make Sri Lankan bases available to foreign countries. 

He added, “We will continue military cooperation such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises with friendly countries”.

The PM also assured that only the Sri Lanka Armed Forces have the responsibility for military activities in our Ports and Airports.

The PM expressed these views addressing the inaugural session of the Indian Ocean Conference, began in Colombo last evening (31).

These are some parts from the PM Wickremesinghe’s speech:

“There are 10 critical choke points in the Indian Ocean that remain vulnerable to air and maritime encounters and possible terrorist attacks by non-state actors. Given the rising conflicts in the Middle East and West Asia, world’s major powers have deployed substantial military forces in the Indian Ocean Region. This trend will continue for some more time until the world community gets together and resolve the causes for these conflicts”.

“These traditional and modern security concerns are yet to be addressed internationally. Articles 34 – 56 of UNCLOS are insufficient to deal with the concerns that are related to freedom navigation in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, Sri Lanka intends working with all our partners in creating a shared vision for economic and security engagement. We remain convinced that a code of conduct that ensures the freedom of navigation in our Ocean will be an essential component of this vision”. 

“In this regard, as I mentioned earlier Sri Lanka will soon commence exploratory discussions on convening a meeting to deliberate on a stable legal order on freedom of navigation and over flight in the Indian Ocean. Taking such a course of action will enable the littoral states to take the initiative to manage competition and determine our own fate”. 

“We believe that maintaining the Freedom of Navigation is of paramount importance for Sri Lanka to become the Hub in the Indian Ocean. It is only then that we can reap the full benefits of our strategic location as well as the availability of ports on all coasts and two international airports with good land connectivity.  The air and sea connectivity will naturally promote logistics.  Colombo will also be a center for offshore finance and business.  Finally Sri Lanka will offer a competitive platform for manufacturing and services”.

“Let me refer to Sri Lanka’s decision to develop its major sea ports, especially the Hambantota port which some claim to be a military base.  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.  We will continue military cooperation such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises with friendly countries. Only the Sri Lanka Armed Forces have the responsibility for military activities in our Ports and Airports. We are also working with foreign private investors on the commercial development of our ports”. 

“In the absence of an effective multilateral trade agreements for the Indian Ocean region Sri Lanka has decided to enter into bilateral agreements with the neighboring littoral states.  This is the only option available.  We already have Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan. We are in the process of deepening our FTA with India to enable greater economic cooperation. We will finalize a FTA with Singapore and then to conclude similar trade agreements with other countries in the Bay of Bengal region.  We are also negotiating an FTA with China.  Furthermore, Sri Lanka is also entitled to EU’s concession granting GSP+ facilities”.

“Sri Lanka’s development as a shipping, air and business hub together with the above Trade Agreements will contribute to the development of intra-regional trade. The Economic growth in our region can only be accelerated by increasing intra-regional trade and infrastructure development thereby strengthening connectivity.  This requires our governments to evolve strategies to expand the trade sectors of our national economies enabling the creation of regional value chain”. 

Therefore let me reaffirm that Sri Lanka is open to trade with all our partners. We aim to become as in the past, a destination of choice for all those looking to tap in to the potential of the Indian Ocean. We intend taking a leading role in initiating a legal order in the Indian Ocean to ensure freedom of navigation.  We look forward to engaging  with all interested Littoral states in  creating  a “policy framework to promote intra-regional trade within a time line” so that  economic activity in the Indian Ocean  region can be enhanced. It is our belief that if we all work for these common objectives, sustainable peace and prosperity in our region can be undoubtedly achieved.  

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