June 11, New Delhi: Sri Lanka has expressed its intention to have friendly relations with every country to become an economic hub in the Indian Ocean and assured that its growing relations with China is not an impediment to strengthen relations with India.
In an interview to The Statesman, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Chitranganee Wagiswara has dismissed the growing impression in New Delhi that China's influence in the island nation has been increasing at the cost of India saying Colombo was desirous of enhancing ties with all friendly nations in the larger interest of its own economic development.
"We went through a very difficult phase of three decades of conflict. Now as the conflict is behind us, we have to look at developing the country for the people. But one cannot say our ties are improving with one nation at the cost of another," she was quoted as saying.
The Lankan envoy said Colombo would like to work with India, China, Japan, the US and ASEAN and EU nations to attract investments in the island nation. The country has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India and is negotiating one with China.
While she would not comment on India's decision to boycott the recent One Belt One Road (OBOR) Forum hosted by China, Wagiswara said her country favored connectivity links. ''Lanka wants to project itself as a hub in the Indian Ocean and work closely with India as well.''
Acknowledging that India was keen on signing an agreement for participating in the economic development of the Trincomalee region in Lanka, she said she was not in a position to say by when the two sides would arrive at an accord.
She did not agree with a suggestion that there were still complaints of violation of human rights of Tamils in Lanka, saying the government was doing its best for the community.
"The main thing is that there is no war, no killing, no child is anymore taken to fight as a soldier. Human rights issues like these were there in the North and stretched to the East but now people can move about freely and get access to educational and employment opportunities."
Wagiswara said India and Lanka were hopeful that they would find a permanent settlement of the fishermen issue with the mechanisms they had put in place now.
She also ruled out the possibility of the LTTE reviving in the country saying that a small number of people outside the country are spreading propaganda to whip up emotions and that they will not succeed.