2012 a milestone in RI–Sri Lanka ties
The year 2012 marks an important milestone for Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the diplomatic ties of which began 60 years ago.
High level visits between the two countries’ noted figures, including Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, have indicated increasing relations between both countries.
Rajapaksa participated in the 4th Bali Democracy Forum while Marty made his first visit to Sri Lanka to lead a delegation for the 1st joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation.
Marty’s Sri Lankan counterpart, External Affairs Minister GL Peiris, noted that the meeting signified new strength and further bonding of the healthy relationship that existed between Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Both ministers agreed that their first joint commission meeting this year was a momentous occasion in both countries’ bilateral ties.
The increasing interest in economic sustainability and development in the region is the main reason for rising ties between Indonesia and Sri Lanka, as both countries are upbeat about their ability to grow economically.
“Indonesia is an economic giant. Its GDP has hit US$1 trillion,” said Sri Lankan Ambassador to Indonesia, Maj. Gen. Nanda Mallawaarachchi. “Obviously, the trade balance is tilting heavily towards Indonesia, but total trade stood as of last year at roughly $400 million.”
“[When] the joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation sat in Colombo, they came to an ambitious target of about $1 billion to be achieved by 2015,” Mallawaarachchi said.
“It is an ambitious figure. Both parties are optimistic that we can achieve this and hope for the best,” he added.
Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, reached out and established bilateral relations with Indonesia four years after independence from Britain on Feb. 4, 1948.
Leaders of both nations at the time became architects of the Non-Aligned Movement, and the two countries have since remained close.
In 2011, bilateral trade between Indonesia and Sri Lanka stood at $412.8 million. In relation to the ambitious target set by the meeting, both countries agreed they would work to forge closer trade and investment ties while building upon their existing relationship.
The working group on trade and investment seeks to establish a framework for regular, ongoing forums between the two countries.
As well as economic development, increased cultural exchange between the two countries is also hoped for in the future.
“Up until now, there have been bilateral visits, cultural visits, priests have been visiting Sri Lanka, and Sri Lankan priests have been coming here,” Mallawaarachchi said. “More Sri Lankan priests have come to Indonesia, propagating Buddhism.”
Both sides have emphasized the enhancing of bilateral cooperation in a number of spheres including trade, defense, investment, tourism, culture, agriculture and aquaculture.
If Indonesia’s ancient Buddhist temples are anything to go by, the region seems open to hosting a multitude of different cultures, the ambassador said.
To mark Sri Lanka’s independence, the embassy held a reception late on Monday.