Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Bangladesh Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne has said that his country wants to see Bangladesh as a strategic partner, noting that the two countries need to take care of each other in a newly evolving globalized world.
“This partnership becomes imperative as our alignment revolves around the protection of the seascape embracing the two lands,” he said, emphasizing that the two countries are also stakeholders of the larger family represented by the SAARC, BIMSTEC and IORA.
In his recent speech marking the 50 years of Bangladesh-Sri Lanka friendship shared with media on Saturday, High Commissioner Seneviratne, who was also the first Sri Lankan to receive both Masters and Doctoral Degrees from India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said Dhaka and Colombo need to prosper together.
The envoy, also Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Bhutan, said one of the focal points and dynamics of the global power blocks is their engagement and aspirations in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
“We are now witnessing a sharply evolving competitive spirit that is setting the tone for the future of South Asia,” he said, adding that the global neoliberal political and economic order is beginning to aggressively impact the region.
It may effectively alter the balance of power and cordiality within the South Asian neighbourhood, said the envoy. “Its impact is mainly felt over the seascape of the Bay of Bengal.”
He said their two lands hold an equally important role at the two strategic ends of the Bay of Bengal representing the “gateway” entry and exit points to the larger World systems.
“The Bay of Bengal essentially is an Oceanic highway. As such, the futuristic staying power and sustenance of our two countries revolve around the protection of the seascape of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal,” said the high commissioner.
It is now recognized that the Bay of Bengal is one of the richest resource areas in the world, hence the high competitive premium placed on its natural and human wealth, he said.
Seneviratne wished another 50 years of friendship and solidarity between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as a gift to the people of the two countries and to the world.
He said aviation and shipping are making headway with official discussions at the ministerial level on coastal shipping, mutual birthing rights and warehouse facilities which are under discussion.
Private sector shipping companies from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka most recently commenced working on joint ventures and the government-owned shipping corporations are working together, he said.
As for reverse investments, it is heartening to learn that Bangladesh has lifted the restriction of movement of capital as FDI’s, said the high commissioner.
Though limited, there was an outflow of FDI to Sri Lanka between 2005 and 2019 amounting to around 4 million US$.
“Sri Lanka is looking towards initial investments from Bangladesh and we have on track tourism, shipping and pharma,” he said.
Seneviratne said, “We also need to strike a balance between the two brother nations so that trade balance needs to be rectified. As of now, the trade balance is in favour of Sri Lanka at US$105 million.”
The near completion of the preferential trade agreement (PTA) will provide greater opportunities for closing the uneven flow, he said.