Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking at the Galle Dialogue organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, said that historically, Sri Lanka has always had significant interests in the Bay of Bengal.
He said that while Sri Lanka’s economic zone falls within the area, his Government remains committed to preventing international terrorism, transnational crimes and people smuggling in the seas around the country.
“It must be reaffirmed that secure seas including safeguarding the Indian Ocean are vital for Sri Lanka’s security. Our special concerns are the routes connecting the Eight degree Channel, the One and half Degree Channel, the Equatorial Channel in an around Maldives, and the Ninth Degree Channel. Ten Degree Channel and to the Malacca Straits, Sunda Straits, and the Lombok Straits,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka is reviewing the possibilities of integrating the capabilities of the Navy and the Air Force.
“Additionally, we have acknowledged the need to amalgamate the competencies of the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Air Force towards bolstering the national surveillance apparatus,” he added.
He said that today there is a need for the establishment of a small Naval force to undertake Sri Lanka’s responsibilities jointly with other nations towards ensuring the freedom of navigation from Channel to the Malacca and Indonesian straits.
“This Government will continue with the reaffirmed policy of ensuring that all ports in Sri Lanka are open for commercial shipping. We would like to reiterate that there would be no naval bases allocated to other countries within Sri Lanka,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka understands that no country is capable of handling maritime security threats and challenges in isolation, no matter how advanced and developed it might be.
He says the need is to think globally and engage in structural co-operation mechanisms in order to effectively address the maritime security threats and challenges. (Colombo Gazette)