The United States (US) says as it looks to advance its interests across the Indo-Pacific, Sri Lanka will be a critical partner.
Atul Keshap, the nominee for US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that in Sri Lanka, the primary interest of the US is to help the people succeed as a prosperous, unified, reconciled, peaceful, and democratic nation.
Keshap noted that at the beginning of this year, the people of South Asia’s oldest democracy courageously chose a new path of hope and renewal. He says since January, Sri Lanka has made progress on challenging issues, from fighting corruption and media censorship, to beginning the long process of healing after decades of war.
“We want to help the Sri Lankan people strengthen democracy, civil society, and human rights, including media freedom and freedom of religion. We want to help build a lasting peace and fellowship among Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities, including credible justice, accountability and reconciliation that can facilitate closure for those who suffered and lost loved ones during the war. It is important to get this right, and the UN and international community can lend useful insight to the efforts of the Sri Lankan people,” he said.
Economically, Keshap said the U.S. is Sri Lanka’s largest export market and while trade volume is relatively low, there is great potential to expand the partnership. In the security realm, he said US de-mining efforts have helped farmers return to oncewar- ravaged land.
He also said that there is also room for closer cooperation on disaster response and maritime security in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is a regional leader in the fight against cybercrime, a contributor to UN Peacekeeping Operations, and is focused on disrupting drug trafficking and fighting maritime piracy, he added.
Keshap said the the democratic progress, economic growth, and security of Sri Lanka and Maldives affect not just their own countries, but the broader Indo Pacific region. Ke said that if confirmed as US Ambassador to both countries, he will consult closely with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and others in Congress to advance U.S. values and interests. (Colombo Gazette)