India has indicated an interest in investing over US$ 1 billion in the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port, along with other projects like the oil tank farm in Trincomalee, under a public-private partnership with the Sri Lankan government, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ravi Karunanayake.
Making the opening address at the commencement of proceedings of the seminar on ‘Emerging Issues in the Indian Ocean’ at a Foreign Policy Forum at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, he said that Japan is also investing in key projects including in a LNG terminal (jointly with India) and is actively seeking more opportunities in Sri Lanka. China is investing over US$ 1.5 billion in building the Colombo Port and International Financial City (CIFC).
“However it is worth noting that although China is a large investor in Sri Lanka, foreign direct investment from China in other regional economies like Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia is much higher than to Sri Lanka,” he said.
He also said that ‘novel thinking’ has to come to the Foreign Service. “While ‘thinking global’, our foreign service must also ‘act local’ by utilising strategies of para-diplomacy,” the Minister said.
“Just as India has done with its own diaspora, we must reach out to overseas Sri Lankans. They have networks and knowhow that we currently do not even appreciate, let alone leverage.”
“In 2013, the University of Moratuwa had the most number of student projects accepted by Google’s Summer of Code programme for the seventh year running, beating all other universities in the world, including the National University of Singapore (which ranked in seventh place) and Peking University (which ranked ninth). Our IT professionals have created software for global clients like the London Stock Exchange.”
“Achievements like these can be multiplied if our foreign policy goes beyond formal diplomatic relations to establishing valuable people-to-people links with key partner economies.”
“Lankan missions abroad can assist the thousands of Sri Lankan students studying abroad, including in India and China, to obtain internships in high-growth companies and new industries. These students may then return to Sri Lanka with networks that they can tap. Even if they remain abroad, we can tap them for ideas, network introductions and other assistance.”
“If we want young innovators, we must be committed to a culture of innovation. We can’t promise casual clothes and table tennis at our offices like in Silicon Valley, but we can start with new practices like an Ideas Lab, online and in person, and an ‘open door’ policy. Many foreign service officers are already offering valuable suggestions,” the Minister said.