President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the strengthening of relationships and understanding between the countries in Asia is even more important today than it has been in the past, given the ongoing pandemic and its consequences.
He made these remarks while delivering the Key Note Address at the 26th International Conference on “The Future of Asia” commenced in Tokyo, yesterday (20), via video conferencing.
Cooperation amongst the nations globally should also be strengthened. The COVID-19 pandemic faced by the world at large has cost a large number of lives and devastated economic activity throughout the globe.
The President emphasized that all nations should unite with confidence at a time when unprecedented challenges have been posed.
‘The pandemic does not respect national boundaries. If the virus is allowed to spread unchecked anywhere in the world, deadlier strains could emerge that threaten the progress already made through inoculation elsewhere. Speed is therefore of the essence. Production capacity must be significantly enhanced, and supply chain constraints must be overcome soon to allow the global rollout of vaccines in a short span of time. It is only if this is done that we will see an end to this catastrophe’, President Rajapaksa said.
The President also stated that Sri Lanka seeks to strengthen bilateral relations with all countries, especially in the Asian region, with regard to trade and investment.
Japan's Nikkei newspaper has been organizing this conference annually since 1995. This year’s theme is ‘Shaping the Post Covid Era: Asia’s Role in the Global Recovery’. The Future of Asia is an international gathering where political, economic and academic leaders from the Asia-Pacific region offer their opinions frankly and freely on regional issues and the role of Asia in the world.
In response to a question posed asking how Sri Lanka, as a South Asian nation, balances the relationship with China and India, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka has maintained historic relationships spanning centuries with both India and China.
The President said, "Our cooperation with China is on par with our overall economic and commercial trajectories. China has been a key investment partner to Sri Lanka, as have many other countries. As a developing country, Sri Lanka wishes to obtain the support of all partner nations to fast track our development aspirations and improve the livelihoods of our people. My Government is keen to further strengthen our relationships with Asian nations and countries farther away."
"While we are aware of world power rivalries and regional power dynamics, our foreign policy is neutral. We consider India our closest neighbour and a long-standing friend, and we understand their security concerns and sensitivities. We will work closely with India and all regional partners to ensure that the Indian Ocean remains secure for the benefit of all countries," President Rajapaksa said.
President Rajapaksa’s participation in the Forum will be an excellent opportunity for the business community in Japan to deepen their understanding of Sri Lanka as a very important trade and investment partner located in the heart of the Indian Ocean.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocher, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, President of Lao Republic Thongloun Sisoulith and Prime Minister of Nepal K. P. Sharma are scheduled to speak at the two-day Forum.
The organisers of the Forum pointed out that the coronavirus outbreak is changing the shape of Asia. The Nikkei expects to discuss whether the Asian leaders will be able to pave the way for the post-COVID era while preserving the principles of "peace and stability" and "diversity"? and whether they will be able to cooperate on international issues, including overcoming future pandemics?