|Liberation of the soul: The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka . — Photo courtesy of Sri Lanka's Embassy
To mark Sri Lanka's 67th Independence Day on February 4, Viet Nam News invites Ambassador Dr Kalahe Gamage Ivan Amarasinghe to give his thoughts on the two countries' relations.
Sri Lanka celebrates February 4 as its day of national independence from Britain.
Since being granted independence in 1948, Sri Lanka entered into democratic self-governance. The election of a "People's Government" by the masses in 1956 led to the former Ceylon being designated in 1972 as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
Since then, our external relationships have played an essential role in developing our natural and human resources independently as a sovereign island in tandem with the best global practices and expectations of the world.
This is our 44th year of official diplomatic relations with Viet Nam. Our countries have stood by each other steadfastly in global fora and meetings. Over the last few decades, our ministers and high officials exchanged visits and agreed on Memoranda of Understanding in diverse areas, with bilateral trade hovering around US$300 million.
Our mission in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is to renew the historic goodwill of our peoples in the knowledge that the ancient oceanic Silk Route touched our shores, thereby necessitating dialogue and trade between our nations.
In recent history, Sri Lanka was the first to officially recognise the Government of North Viet Nam under the leadership of President Ho Chi Minh. He visited Colombo on many occasions.
Since the state visit of Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa to Viet Nam in October 2009 and the state visit of President Truong Tan Sang of Viet Nam to Sri Lanka in 2011, our bilateral friendship was renewed with vigour.
Numerous Ministerial level visits as well as those by high state officials and corporate heads have increased our bilateral co-operation. Human resources development and training, infrastructure facilitation consultancy, education, health care, agriculture and tourism are key areas addressed by the 24 MOUs and bilateral agreements activated at present.
The establishment of the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam in Colombo in 2011 also improved bilateral performance. The recent increase in student exchanges between the two countries on bilateral scholarships augers well for enhanced future academic relationships.
The increase in the number of student Bhikkus and Bhikkunis to Sri Lankan pirivenas, universities and meditation centres and the regular increase in pilgrim tourists from Viet Nam reflect the revival of the traditional Vietnamese Buddhist search for spiritual solace.
Sri Lanka has recently appointed its first Honorary Consul in HCM City. Many trade and investment improvements are expected from this development.
Even though we have only a few hundred Sri Lankan expatriates in Viet Nam, it is encouraging to note their achievements in local competitions as winners of the international expatriate cricket championship in HCM City.
In addition, we have formed a Sri Lanka-Viet Nam Friendship Group recently under the auspices of the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organisations [VUFO].
On the doorstep to the annual Vietnamese New Year, it is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to say "Chuc Mung Nam Moi" to all Vietnamese people for the sixth and final time as I end my period of service in my beloved Viet Nam.
May our people go from strength to strength, hand in hand! — VNS