Sri Lanka's prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday assured delegates of the Indian Ocean conference taking place at Colombo that the country would not enter any military alliance with any country.
“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 say this with responsibility. This government does not enter into military alliances with any country. Neither do we intend to make our bases available to foreign countries,” he was quoted by the Daily Mirror as saying.
“Only the Sri Lanka Armed Forces have the right to undertake military activities in our Ports and Airports. We are also working with foreign private investors on the commercial development of our ports,” he added.
"Sri Lanka will continue military cooperation with friendly countries such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises."
Mr Wickremesinghe further added:
“We believe that maintaining the Freedom of Navigation is of paramount importance for us to achieve our goal of becoming the hub in the Indian Ocean. The availability of ports on all coasts and two international airports with good land connectivity is vital because it is only then that we can reap the full benefits of our strategic location in the Indian Ocean. Connectivity by sea and air will naturally promote logistics. Colombo will also become a centre for offshore finance and business, offering a competitive platform for manufacturing and services."
“In the absence of effective multilateral trade agreements being signed for the Indian Ocean region, we have decided to enter into bilateral agreements with neighbouring littoral states. This is the only option available. We already have Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with India and Pakistan. We are in the process of improving our FTAs with India which will ensure greater economic cooperation between the two neighbours. We are in the process of finalizing an FTA with Singapore after which we will look at getting into similar trade agreements with other countries in the Bay of Bengal region. We are also negotiating an FTA with China."