Aug 31, Colombo: Sri Lanka today urged the world's major powers to keep the Indian Ocean safe and secure for freedom of navigation and overflight and suggested a code of conduct that ensures the freedom of Navigation in the Indian Ocean is essential to keep vital sea lanes of communication that fuels the global economy open for all littoral countries.
Delivering the inaugural address at the second Indian Ocean Conference in Colombo on Thursday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the maintaining the freedom of navigation is of paramount importance for Sri Lanka to become a hub of the Indian Ocean.
In our view the vital sea lanes of communication that fuels the global economy must be open for all and must be used for mutual benefit in a sustainable manner. It is essential to maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region which ensures the rights of all states to freedom of navigation and overflight.
That unhindered, lawful maritime commerce are conducted in keeping with current international laws and regulations.
However, given the rise in conflicts between Middle East and West, world's major powers have deployed substantial military force in the Indian Ocean region leading to naval power competitions.
These traditional and modern security concerns are yet to be addressed internationally. Existing laws are insufficient to deal with these concern that are related to freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean.
Therefore, Sri Lanka intends working with all our partners in creating a shared vision for economic and security engagement. We remained convinced that a code of conduct that ensures the freedom of Navigation in our ocean will be an essential component of this vision.
In this regard, Sri Lanka will soon commence exploratory discussions on convening a meeting to deliberate on a stable legal order on freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indian Ocean.
Taking such a course of action will enable the littoral states to take the initiative to manage competition and determine our own fate.
"We believe that maintaining the freedom of navigation is of paramount importance for Sri Lanka to become a hub of the Indian Ocean. It is only then that we can reap the full benefits of our strategic location as well as the availability of all ports on all coasts and two international airports with good land connectivity.
Air and sea connectivity will natural promote logistics and Colombo will also be a center for offshore finance and business. Finally Sri Lanka will offer a competitive platform for manufacturing and services.
Rejecting some claims that Hambanthota Port will be a military base, the Premier asserted that the government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena does not enter into military alliances with any country or make our bases available to foreign countries.
"We will continue military cooperation such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises with friendly countries," he said adding that only the Sri Lankan armed forces have the responsibility for military activities in our ports and airports. He said Sri Lanka is also working with foreign private investors to develop its ports.