By W S Perera
This year is significant to Sri Lanka and Nepal as both countries commemorate 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations.
Sri Lanka has maintained and expanded into a multifaceted and mutually rewarding historically admirable relationship with Nepal since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1957.
Sixty years of diplomatic relations with Nepal is an important milestone in our bilateral ties. These relations have grown in strength over the years across the spectrum to include cultural exchanges and people to people contact.
Our people to people contacts have existed even before formal Diplomatic relations began in 1957. Both countries share warmest relations based on Cultural & Religious ties.
Religious link between the two countries is considered as one of the main aspects of bilateral ties. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha, attracts a large number of Buddhist pilgrims every year and Sri Lanka has been on the top in terms of tourists visiting Lumbini.
The Pilgrims’ Rest and Sri Lanka Mahavihara temple in Lumbini are symbolic of the Sri Lanka’s close friendship with Nepal.A considerable number of Buddhist monks and nuns follow Buddhist studies in Sri Lanka at present.
The assistance provided by Sri Lanka to those affected by the earthquake in Nepal was further expanded by the financial assistance to rebuild the two heritage temples i.e. AnandakutiMahaVihar and RatoMachchindranath Hindu Temple, which were damaged by the earthquake.
The Government of Sri Lanka is committed to further strengthening the existing relations between the two countries. The Exchange of visits by political leaders, Cabinet ministers and Representatives from various Ministries have benefited both countries bilaterally. Sri Lanka and Nepal have signed number of bilateral Agreements, MOUs and Agreement on Joint Commission with a view to foster understanding and promote bilateral cooperation in various sectors.
In addition, both countries assist each other by offering training programmes in defence areas and Sri Lanka is offering scholarships for Nepali students under the Presidential Scholarship Programme. A large number of Sri Lankan students are studying in various universities in Nepal and Manipal Medical College in Pokhara.
We are extremely happy to note that there is a potential to increase tourism between the two countries due to commencement of direct flights between Kathmandu and Colombo by Himalaya Airlines since last year.
Sri Lanka’s relations with Nepal rest on a strong foundation of age old historical, social. cultural and commercial interactions further consolidated over the years with mutual goodwill and understanding. Both countries work closely within the non-Aligned Movement and United Nations and have shared views on many issues of common concern. Sri Lanka and Nepal are members of SAARC, BIMSTEC and Colombo plan. SAARC has provided opportunities to understand the problems and aspirations of our peoples. Our countries are committed to expanding the regional-cooperation for the mutual benefit of the people of the region. Together with other members of SAARC, we are endeavouring to harness our efforts and energies to develop our region as a vibrant economy. Sri Lanka is deeply appreciative of the strong commitment of Nepal to the SAARC as the current Chair.
Sri Lanka and Nepal have been engaged in a purposeful exercise of rebuilding our nations to better reflect the aspirations of our peoples.
As you are aware, Sri Lanka faced terrorism for almost 30 years and in May 2009 conflict ended with the defeat of the LTTE. (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).
Following the Parliamentary election in August 2015, traditional rivals in Sri Lankan politics, the United NationalParty and Sri Lanka Freedom Party came together to form a Government of National Unity for the first time since independence. Today under the leadershipof MaithripalaSirisena, President and RanilWickremesinghe, Prime Minister, Sri Lankan Government has taken several steps that are necessary for consolidating democracy, freedom, good Governance and rule of law. Also they have laid the foundation necessary to forge national reconciliation and ensure non-recurrence of conflict in Sri Lanka. The main objectives of Sri Lankan Government are economic development, poverty alleviation, reconciliation and establishment of friendly relations with all the countries. The National Unity Government, therefore, is taking steps towards achieving the twine objectives of reconciliation and development as it is not possible to achieve one without the other. One of our key priorities, while pursuing our development and reconciliation objectives, is the adoption of a new Constitution based on the fundamentals of democracy, human rights and equal dignity for all citizens by virtue of their citizenship.
Nearly after three decades of conflict, Sri Lanka has entered a new era of economic progress with the aim of achieving equitable distribution of dividends of peace to all. Sri Lanka is developing rapidly with higher GDP per capita and GDP growth at present and the country is fast becoming the latest most important global centre for trade. It offers various benefits for foreign investors to attract foreign direct investment.
South Asia has the potential to become a major economic zone of the world. This region has the largest concentration of the population in the world and there are vast resources, potential markets and opportunities for economic growth. Sri Lanka and Nepal can work together in reaping the economic benefits for the development of both countries.
I am confident that the multi-faceted relations between Sri Lanka and Nepal will continue to be strengthened to the mutual benefit of our two peoples in the years ahead.
(Excerpts of the address delivered by ambassador Perera at a function organised to observe the 69th National Day of Sri Lanka.)
Nepal and Sri-Lanka enjoy 60 years of relations
By W S Perera