|Lush landscape: Galle Fort, in the Bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, dates back to the 16th century.
On the occasion of Sri Lanka's National Day on Thursday (February 4), Viet Nam News presents an article written by the ambassador of Sri Lanka to Viet Nam, Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake.
If golden beaches, blue seas, rising waves, serene mountains, majestic elephants, silent leopards, huge whales and playful dolphins, a rich history, delicious tea, exotic cuisine, a wide range of festivities and warm smiles could sum up a country, that would be Sri Lanka.
In January 2016, Fox News identified Sri Lanka as the No 1 in its "10 under-the-radar destinations for 2016".
The multi-ethnic, multi-religious society in Sri Lanka has paved the way for its inhabitants and tourist alike to be a part of a wide range of festivities all around the year, adding more diversity to this island of 21 million people.
Sri Lanka's strategic location has played a major role in its destiny from the ancient times to date. Even 2,000 years ago, Sri Lanka was a centre of maritime trade. It was not just a port of trans-shipment and maintenance, it was also well known for its exports of its gems, pearls and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper.
Five centuries ago when European traders who came to Asia "in search of exotic spices", Portuguese arrived on our shores, followed by the Dutch and then the British moved in. Through an agreement with the British, the Kandyan Kingdom in the central hills accepted British sovereignty over the entire island in 1815. Britain ruled Sri Lanka until February 4, 1948, when Sri Lanka gained independence from the British Empire.
In 1978, Sri Lanka was a pioneer in the developing world to liberalise its economy. Sri Lanka's development process and the economy had a major setback due to internal conflicts which lasted for over 25 years. However, since the end of the conflict in May 2009, the development and economic progress has been tremendous.
|Standing tall: Avukana Buddha Statue, which is the largest and one of the most adored colossal Buddha Statues of Sri Lanka, dates back to the fifth century. — Photos courtesy of the Embassy of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has for centuries had open and friendly relations with the outside world, and continues to have a strong vibrant foreign policy engaging all nations guided by principles of diplomatic engagement and friendship.
Today, Sri Lanka is poised as a logistics hub of the Asian waters from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of the Americas while aspiring to build itself up as a financial centre between Dubai and Singapore, again strategising its location.
In this context, it is important to have direct links with the growing economies of the world, such as Viet Nam. The magnitude of our bilateral relations stands as testimony to that with over 56 exchanges of bilateral visits since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1970, with the last being the visit of Dr Harsha De Silva, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka to Viet Nam at the end of January 2016. Meanwhile, there are 26 agreements, MoUs and work plans signed between the two countries covering a wide range of sectors.
At present, we see a high increase of Sri Lanka's investment in Viet Nam, amounting to over US$76 million. Bilateral trade is growing and is around $271 million. Although both countries have many similarities in products and services offered for export, the two countries possess different competencies within the different sectors that create ample opportunities for economic co-operation.
To facilitate bilateral economic co-operation, the Embassy of Sri Lanka opened the Sri Lanka Business Council in Viet Nam on January 29, 2016.
As for tourism potential of Sri Lanka, only a few places in the world can offer travellers such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within an island a 1/5 the size of Viet Nam. Within the 65,610 km2 lies eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites – mainly connected to Buddhism – 1,330 kilometres of coastline, 15 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, nearly 202,342ha. of lush tea estates, 101ha. of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, 25,000 water bodies and a culture that extends back over 2,500 years.
On the 68th anniversary of celebrating Sri Lanka's independence, let me invite you to explore Sri Lanka's rich diversity in cultural and natural heritage and limitless opportunities to mesmerise all your senses that the beautiful island of Sri Lanka offers to the world. — VNS