Sri Lanka has not fallen into a debt trap, President tells Pompeo

China has helped Sri Lanka to develop infrastructure after the civil war and Sri Lanka has not fallen into a debt trap, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has told United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

The President expressed these views during the bilateral discussions held with the latter on the morning of the 28th of October.

During the cordial discussion between the two parties, views on a number of areas of bilateral and regional importance were exchanged, according to President’s Media Division.

US Secretary of State told the President that the US is ready to continuously engage with Sri Lanka in its striving to achieve economic development goals.

He said that the US expects to further develop already existing strong bilateral relations between the two countries.

Expressing the desire of the US to continue to work closely with Sri Lanka in achieving a high level of economic development, the State Secretary said priority will be given to promote US investments in the island.

Tourism is a key sector that contributes to employment and income generation. The USA is ready to give a helping hand to the development of this area under a carefully prepared action plan, Pompeo stated.

In response, President Rajapaksa said what Sri Lanka wants is not to obtain loans continuously, but to achieve a high level of economic growth by attracting more foreign investments.

“We have already begun to remove bureaucratic red tapes that hinder foreign investment. Sri Lanka is a country that possesses the necessary factors to achieve high agricultural development. Our agriculture sector should be modernized. Scientific research should be conducted in order to reach this goal. We expect your assistance towards this end”, President Rajapaksa stressed.

Elaborating on the foreign policy of Sri Lanka, President said it is based on neutrality.

“The relations between Sri Lanka and other nations are determined by several conditions. Historic and cultural relations, development cooperation are some of the priorities.”

President stressed that he is not ready to compromise the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the nation in maintaining foreign relations, whatever the circumstances may be.

Noting that China assisted in the development of the country’s infrastructure since the end of the separatist war President reiterated that Sri Lanka is not caught in a debt trap as a result.

The two sides agreed to further strengthen the defense cooperation already established between Sri Lanka and the United States. These include training opportunities and material assistance from the United States to security forces personnel in Sri Lanka.

When the President emphasized the need to strengthen the coastal guard services to combat drug trafficking, the State Secretary said that the US could assist in this endeavor.

Pompeo said that the United States wishes to see that the Indian Ocean remains a zone of peace. He expressed satisfaction over the existing friendly ties between Sri Lanka and India. President Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lanka also hopes to see peace in the Indian Ocean.

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz, Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao, Chief Assistant Deputy Secretary at Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson, Senior Advisor to the State Secretary Mary Kissel were the other members of the US delegation.

Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardene, Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera,  Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador-designate to the US Ravinatha Aryasinghe were also present during the discussion.

Pompeo visited Sri Lanka on a two-day visit following a visit to New Delhi. He met with President Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena this morning and followed the sessions with a joint press conference with Gunawardena at the Ministry.

At the joint press conference, He stated, “We see, from bad deals, violations of sovereignty, and lawlessness on the land and sea that the China Congress Party, as a predator. And the US comes in a different way. We come as a friend and as a partner.”

The United States and China are currently embroiled in a power struggle over mutual economic, political, and security interests. The North American nation accuses China of debt-trap diplomacy and benefitting more from the projects on development and infrastructure than its expected recipients.

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