An excellent relationship
Sri Lanka has
maintained consistently excellent diplomatic relations with
South East Asian countries, most of which share common cultural
and religious values with us. Buddhism is one factor that links
Sri Lanka with these countries. In the modern era, Sri Lanka has
increased trade with the Association of South East Asian
countries and established firm diplomatic and political links
Sri Lanka is also a frontline member of the Non Aligned
Movement which has a large number of Asian nations. Sri Lanka
recently hosted the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, of which many
ASEAN countries are members. Sri Lanka is thus playing a major
role in the region, in addition to its commitments to SAARC (The
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) whose summit
was held in Colombo last year.
In international diplomacy, interactions at Heads of State
level are vital to foster relations among various countries.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken this policy a step further
with his personal commitment to develop links with our
neighbours and other Asian countries.
This is a sharp departure from the line adopted by certain
previous Governments which were overtly subservient to the West
at the expense of our links with Asian countries. We need to
cultivate equally good relations with all friendly countries and
Asia should necessarily be given prominence.
President Rajapaksa has been instrumental in reinforcing our
excellent relations with countries such as India, China,
Myanmar, Iran and Japan through official visits. His latest
State visit - to Vietnam - is another symbol of Sri Lanka’s
affinity to Asia. It should be noted here that Sri Lanka was one
of the very first nations to recognize the Provisional
Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and
later following reunification, the Vietnamese nation. Sri Lanka
was also one of the first countries to establish diplomatic
relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the 1970s.
The Vietnamese leaders and the people know all too well the
horrendous effects of war, having experienced the terror
perpetrated by imperialist powers. Today, it is a rapidly
developing nation aspiring to become the next Asian Tiger.
The conflict in Sri Lanka was certainly different from the
one in Vietnam, though the suffering of the ordinary people in
the North who were subject to LTTE terror was almost the same.
We should ponder how Vietnam achieved national reconciliation,
unity and development in the post-war era. Vietnam emerged even
more strongly from divisions - we too should shed divisions,
real and imagined, to emerge stronger on the world stage with
the help of our friends in Asia and the rest of the world.
It is thus not surprising that Vietnam fully concurs with the
steps taken by the Sri Lankan leadership to crush terrorism,
unlike certain Western powers.
Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet has highly appreciated
and lauded the bravery and bold steps taken by President
Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan Security Forces to defeat LTTE
terrorism. Vietnam firmly supported Sri Lanka’s battle against
terrorism in multilateral fora, most recently at the UN Human
Rights Council in Geneva when attempts were made by certain
countries to discredit the good image of Sri Lanka.
The Vietnamese leader has commended the well orchestrated
democratic humanitarian mission to rescue the innocent civilians
held hostage by the LTTE.
Both Sri Lanka and Vietnam should now look forward to
increasing trade and tourism (people to people contact). The two
countries should explore the possibility of commencing direct
flights to the capital cities and signing a visa waiver
arrangement. Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage and sacred cities
should be promoted among the Vietnamese people. More Vietnamese
investors should be encouraged to start ventures here,
especially in the emerging North and the East. Our exporters
should also raise their exports to Vietnam.
Sri Lanka and Vietnam do compete in the world trade arena,
especially in fields such as garments. But Asian countries
should not always depend on the West, which imposes various
conditions and restrictions, for trade.
The time has come for Asian nations to increase
intra-regional trade significantly and help each other in times
of crises. It is also essential that they raise a single voice
on various issues at world fora, acting as a formidable barrier
against the domination of world bodies by a few rich countries.
They should also join hands to fight terrorism in the region to
make it even more economically and politically powerful on the