Meets U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Chiefs
Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy was a distinguished participant at the 16th International Seapower Symposium Oct. 26 - 29 at the Naval War College hosted by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark for the heads of Navies around the world. More than 150 delegates from 71 countries attended this unique event. Some countries were also represented by the head of their coast guard and the president of their Naval War College. This year's theme was "Sea Power for Peace, Prosperity and Security."
Admiral Sandagiri was invited by the US Navy in the light of the burgeoning defence relationship between the two countries. Sri Lanka is due to take delivery of a 210 foot Cutter formerly used by the United States Coast Guard soon. Admiral Sandagiri met with the US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark and a host of top US Navy and Coast Guard officials including Admiral Thomas H. Collins, Commandant of the Coast Guard during the symposium. During his meeting with Admiral Clark, collaboration pertaining to training and equipment, amongst other matters, were discussed in detail. This follows the visit to Pacific Command (PACOM) in June 2003 by Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe who was accompanied by Vice Admiral Sandagiri. The visit paved the way for increased defence relations between the US and Sri Lanka.
The purpose of the symposium was to provide a forum for naval leaders from around the world to discuss common maritime challenges and enhance navy-to-navy cooperation. The International Seapower Symposium has commonly been a biennial affair since its inception in 1969. The 2001 event was cancelled due to the terrorist attacks on America.
"It is an honor for our Navy to host such a distinguished group of friends, allies and professionals committed to excellence in the maritime domain," Clark said. "In this era of globalization, nations thrive or flounder based on their access to markets. We assure that access for our respective countries - and our peace, prosperity, and security depend on our ability to fully exploit the maritime domain. This symposium is a forum that will better enable us to do just that.
The U.S. Naval War College established programs in 1956 and 1972 for international officers. A number of delegates attending this symposium are graduates of these programs. Sri Lanka Navy too sends senior naval officers to follow the Naval War College Course on a regular basis.
Founded on October 6, 1884, the Naval War College is the first military service institution in the world to be designated a war college. The Naval War College has a long and unique history of educating its students to make sound decisions in command and to develop a keen undertaking of naval strategy and management. At the War College, students are challenged to increase their professional skills, to prepare for increased command and management responsibilities, and to conduct advanced research in strategic and operational concepts.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
30 October 2003
Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe was among the Ambassadors and Muslim Leaders in the US who attended the Iftaar dinner hosted by US President George W. Bush, at the White House on Tuesday. The event is held annually to celebrate Ramadan- a month of fasting, prayer, worship and contemplation. "The invitees to the White House for this event are usually the diplomatic community and dignitaries from countries where there is a preponderance of Muslims. On this occasion, however, Sri Lanka was also included.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, was the special guest of honor at this event, which was also attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Energy, Spence Abraham, National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials.
Addressing the gathering, President Bush said "America is a land of many faiths" which honors, welcomes and values the Muslim faith. Noting that "Islam is a religion that brings hope and comfort to good people across America and around the world" he said "tonight we honor the contributions of Muslims and the tradition of Islam by hosting this Iftaar at the White House."
The President reminded his audience of the need to be "mindful of the struggles of the men and women around the world who long for the same peace and tolerance we enjoy here in America", adding that "brave American and coalition troops are laboring every day to defend our liberty and to spread freedom and peace, particularly to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan." Asserting that "terrorists who use religion to justify the taking of innocent life have no home in any faith", he pledged that the US "will continue to support the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as they build a more hopeful future" and "will not allow criminals or terrorists to stop the advance of freedom".
The President urged that "as we defend liberty and justice abroad, we must always honor those values here at home." He said, "America rejects all forms of ethnic and religious bigotry. We welcome the values of every responsible citizen, no matter the land of their birth" and "will always protect the most basic human freedom -- the freedom to worship God without fear."
Embassy of Sri Lanka
29 October 2003
President Bush to Welcome the Prime Minister to the White House on November 4, 2003
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be visiting Washington DC from the 3rd to 5th November 2003 during which he will meet President George W. Bush at the White House. He is also scheduled to meet senior US administration officials, Senators and Congressmen. A further highlight of the visit will be a visit to the premier biotechnology institutes and companies located in the "Biotechnology Corridor" in the State of Maryland.
"The Prime Minister's forthcoming visit follows the earlier visit to the White House in July 2002 to meet President Bush, during which the two leaders discussed key bilateral issues and the peace initiatives of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. That visit established the foundation for enhancing the bilateral relationship in a mutually beneficial manner" said Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States of America.
Current relations between the two countries are marked by regular, high level contacts and meaningful bilateral cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, national security and global issues. The US has been actively engaged in supporting the Peace Process in Sri Lanka. The US Government hosted the Pre-Tokyo Donor Conference held in Washington DC in April 2003 and Co-chaired the Tokyo Donor Conference in June 2003. These efforts underline the active support of the US Government in re-establishing peace, national security and economic progress in Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe will apprise President Bush on the current status of the Peace Process and on the economic reform program of the Government. The discussions the Prime Minister will have during this visit are expected to further reinforce the support of the US Government towards the maintenance of the ceasefire and a negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka that would end decades of conflict. The discussions are also expected to further enhance the deepening and diversification of trade between the two countries, especially because the visit follows the recently concluded Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) 3rd Joint Council meeting in Colombo on October 14th, 2003. The two leaders will have wide- ranging discussions that will also include regional and international developments.
It is expected that the current visit of the Prime Minster will deepen and widen the close ties that have been forged between the two countries since the July 2002 visit.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
24 October 2003
Sri Lanka greatly appreciates the most timely initiative taken by the Government of Spain, on behalf of the European Union, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the United State of America and in association with the UNDP, the World Bank and the IMF, to convene and host this International Donor Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. My delegation also wishes to express its gratitude to the Conference organizers for the excellent arrangements made by them.
Mr. President, people of my country have undergone the ravages and sufferings of war for many years. That experience has enabled us to feel the pain and torment of the people of Iraq and share their aspirations to rebuild with dignity a free, democratic and prosperous country.
It was only several months ago Mr. President that the international community came forward in strength in Tokyo to support Sri Lanka's on-going peace process. Led by Japan, the support they offered us, besides materially helping Sri Lanka to rebuild and reconstruct the country, was also instrumental in giving us further resolve and conviction to pursue the path of peace and reconciliation. Hence we applaud the Government of Spain for taking this initiative to demonstrate the resolve of the international community by assisting reconstruction efforts of Iraq.
In the circumstances, our participation at this International Donor Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, should be seen as a symbolic demonstration of our solidarity with and empathy towards the people of Iraq, who have suffered for a long time and should be assisted as they begin to reconstruct their country and rebuild their society.
Mr. President, as a token of our support for the people of Iraq, Sri Lanka is pleased to pledge 100 metric tons of tea and 100,000 pieces of apparel to the people of Iraq. Our pledge amounts to an approximate FOB value of US Dollars 900,000. In addition, Mr. President my Government will of course bear the freight and other related charges for the transport of these pledged items to their destination in Iraq.
I wish to conclude my brief intervention expressing the confidence of Sri Lanka that the International Donor community would be generous in their pledges at this Conference and remain engaged in the reconstruction process of Iraq.
21 October 2003
Honourable Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, visited India from 19-21 October 2003 at the invitation of the Government of India. He was accompanied by Tyronne Fernando, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Milinda Moragoda, Minister of Economic Reforms, Science and Technology and other senior officials.
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka held wide-ranging discussions with Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers of External Affairs, Commerce & Industry, Civil Aviation and Petroleum & Natural Gas called on Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. The discussions were substantive and held in a cordial atmosphere, reflective of the close relations between the two countries.
The two Prime Ministers expressed their happiness that the Free Trade Agreement, which became operational in December 2001, had enabled bilateral trade to cross the US$ 1 billion mark in the financial year 2002-03.
A decision to go beyond the Free Trade Agreement was taken during the last visit of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in June 2002. An India-Sri Lanka Joint Study Group was set up to make recommendations for the establishment of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. The Co-Chairmen of the Joint Study Group presented their recommendations tothe two Prime Ministers on 20th October 2003. Expressing their satisfaction on the speed with which the Joint Study Group prepared its comprehensive report with its far-reaching recommendations, the Prime Ministers congratulated the members of the Group and directed that negotiations begin immediately, with the target of concluding the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by the end of March 2004. This would enable the two countries to reap the early benefits of freer trade in goods and services and enhanced investment and economic cooperation.
The two Prime Ministers noted the successful holding of the 5th session of the Joint Commission Meeting, co-chaired by the Foreign Ministers, in Colombo on 15th October 2003 and the signing of the Agreement to release the second tranche of US$ 30 million out of the US$ 100 million Line of Credit extended to Sri Lanka. They agreed that further Lines of Credit for infrastructure projects could be discussed.
The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction that existing understandings on dealing sympathetically and humanely with fishermen who stray into each other's maritime zone were working well. It was noted that a number of Indian fishermen had been released by the Sri Lankan side and several Sri Lankan vessels detained at Nagapattinam had been released for repair and escorted back to Sri Lanka. It was agreed that while it was important that the fishermen should be released early, the boats may be held till the judicial processes in the two countries are completed. The Prime Ministers agreed on the need to undertake enhanced surveillance to minimize incursions, institutionalize assistance for salvage operations of released vessels, pay attention to ecological and conservation aspects and consider licensed fishing within a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Fisheries.
The two Prime Ministers expressed their satisfaction at increased civil aviation links between India and Sri Lanka. They noted that Sri Lankan Airlines had increased the number of its weekly flights to Indian destinations from 29 to 44 since their last meeting. Without prejudice to already existing arrangements, India offered to Sri Lanka the facility of daily air services by its designated airlines between Colombo and the metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata. In addition, unlimited access would be available for air services to and from 18 tourist destinations in India. It was agreed to do away with the existing requirement of Commercial Agreements between designated airlines of the two countries for asymmetrical operations. With a view to increasing tourist flow and connectivity, it was also decided to encourage private scheduled airlines of India, who operate only in the domestic sector at present, to extend their operations to airports in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister agreed to reciprocate in terms of the access that airlines from India could have to Sri Lankan airspace.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister proposed commencement of a ferry service linking Colombo with Kochi (Kerala).
The Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction the significant contribution made by the India-Sri Lanka Foundation towards fostering exchanges in cultural, educational, scientific and technological areas and announced a further contribution of Rs. 1 crore each to enable the Foundation to sustain its diverse activities.
Taking note of the continuing acts of terrorism worldwide and in our region, the two Prime Ministers emphasized the need for concerted opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They agreed that there can be no justification for terrorism, be it political, religious or ideological. They recalled the obligations devolving on States, inter alia, under Security Council Resolution 1373 and the International Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism. The Kathmandu Declaration adopted at the 11th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu on 6 January 2002 on criminalization of financing for terrorist purposes and the need to prevent the abuse of financial systems of States was also recalled. They reaffirmed the need to finalize and adopt, at the earliest, the proposed Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism, which would send a strong signal that the international community was united and determined in its efforts to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. Furthermore, they also urged the early conclusion of the proposed Additional Protocol to the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.
The two Prime Ministers discussed the ongoing cooperation in training and the supply of equipment to the Sri Lankan defence forces and agreed that the two sides will commence discussions with a view to concluding a defence cooperation agreement at the earliest.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister apprised the Indian leadership of recent developments in the peace process and proposals made by his Government for the establishment of an Interim Administration. India expects that the response to the proposals made by the Sri Lankan Government in July 2003 will be reasonable and comprehensive. India supports the process of seeking a negotiated settlement acceptable to all sections of Sri Lankan society within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for individual rights. It believes that an enduring solution has to emerge purely through internal political processes.
India will maintain an abiding interest in the security of Sri Lanka and remains committed to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. India would welcome a resolution of the current impasse in the peace process and an early resumption of negotiations. Any interim arrangement should be an integral part of the final settlement and should be in the framework of the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
October 21, 2003
"The potential in the South Asia region for economic growth and, through it improving the lives of people is still vastly untapped. Development institutions such as the World Bank who are key partners in the process, can play a major role. The World Bank should share global knowledge on what works and what does not; What has succeeded and what has failed and why; and provide concessionary funds to spur development in key areas."
Minister Milinda Moragoda, Minister for Economic Reform, Science & Technology, was speaking as the invited and the only keynote speaker at the Development Seminar on "Economic Prospects in South Asia" sponsored by the World Bank in Washington D.C. today.
While recognizing the substantial contribution that the World Bank is making in South Asian countries, Minister Moragoda stressed that the World Bank needs to communicate better to the masses, as the institution's policies, though well placed, are often misunderstood. He appreciated that economic development takes time- and is a long term process- but for national leaders and the World Bank to succeed there is need to show early results as well. "It is good to promise honey in the future, but we also need bread today, "he said.
Vice President for the World Bank's South Asia Region, emphasized his commitment to support the South Asia region more aggressively - and Sri Lanka in particular given the urgent need in a post conflict situation. Attainment of peace he said was key to attracting huge amounts of donor assistance that is in the pipeline. Praful Patel said that in his recent discussions with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, they had agreed on the priority that needs to be given to building capacity for speedier implementation; and to support upgrading and enhancing infrastructure and basic services to citizens.
Mr. Patel said that Minister Moragoda's passionate advocacy for sustained assistance and quicker results was an aspect which was also echoed by leaders in other countries as well - "Minister Moragoda's appeal on behalf of Sri Lanka has been heard loud and clear."
Embassy of Sri Lanka
15 October 2003