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U.S. - Sri Lanka relations enters a new beginning

By Srimal Fernando Global Editor-Diplomatic Society

 The visit of the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship "USS Blue Ridge"  in  Colombo Port,  Sri Lanka in April this year, further strengthened the growing diplomatic relations between the USA and Sri Lanka. It will bolster trust and encourage constructive cooperation from Washington and Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s bilateral relationship with the US is deeply linked to Sri Lanka’s domestic issue of reconciliation. It is a relation that has had many ups and downs but has stood the test of time in its 68 years of diplomatic relations.

Sri Lanka traditionally follows a non-alignment foreign policy. The Indian Ocean Island nation has been seeking closer relations with the United States of America (USA) since December 1977.  Former Sri Lankan President Jayewardene, who was known for his pro-American views, played an important role in solidifying the relations between the two countries. During his historic visit in 1984 President Jayewardene presented a baby elephant to US President Ronald Reagan. Seen by many as a pivotal visit, significant achievements were made. Over US$ 2 billion in development assistance to numerous priority areas in Sri Lanka was granted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Picture:  H.E  Atul Keshap U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives with Naval officers from the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship "USS Blue Ridge"


In the aftermath of the Asian tsunami in a gesture suffused with symbolism two former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush senior visited tsunami-stricken areas of Sri Lanka on February 21, 2005.

Since January 2015, after the election of Maithripala Sirisena Sri Lanka's new president, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the country's relations were reviewed. The Obama administration has taken innovative steps to work around their past differences and is encouraging the resumption of warmer relations.

Another  landmark   in  US –Sri Lanka relations   was  the  state visit  of  US Secretary of State John Kerry with a US delegation of 35 delegates to Sri Lanka for a two day official visit from May 2nd to 3rd  2015.  

 

Picture:U.S. Secretary John Kerry with Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera on May 2, 2015 in Sri Lanka 

The visit of Kerry elevated bilateral  relations  and gave fresh  impetus and sought new directions for the future of both  political and  economic  ties. Sri Lanka is increasingly being regarded as one of the most important countries in South Asia. Sri Lankan exports to US have increased to US$ 10.39 billion in 2013. Over the same period its imports from US have increased to almost $18 billion.

Active US participation in Asian affairs is leading not only to closer economic integration with Sri Lanka but is enabling it to be a part of the security architecture.  There are several positive signs in the defence relationship, including expanded political and security exchanges through dialogue on economic and regional security issues.  

The appointment of Ambassador Atul Keshap, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in Washington DC, who presented credentials to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena as the new U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka on August, 21, 2015 is seen as significant in this regard.

The ongoing defence understanding will have a spill over effect on the development of Naval cooperation.

It is also worthy to note the strong cultural and people to people relations.

 

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