The potential ‘Soft Power’ that Sri Lanka could wield, considering its critical strategic location in the Indian Ocean region, is yet to be fully exploited, as it relies, to a large extent, on its capacities and capabilities, said Foreign Secretary Esala Weerakoon at the culmination of the two-day ‘Colombo Defence Seminar – 2016’ organized by the Sri Lanka Army, on Friday.
“Located as we are, at a meeting point between the East and the West, in the Indian Ocean, our location is of significant geo-strategic importance. In a modern context, one of the most important Sea Lanes of Communication runs just South of Dondra Head, where close to 200 ships traverse daily, taking energy supplies to other countries in East Asia and beyond,” he said.
“We have a responsibility to keep those Sea Lanes of Communication safe and ensure freedom of navigation. Any disturbance to this sea lane could have disastrous consequences to the global economy,” he said.
Noting that today’s Sri Lanka is a good fit for internal and external expression of ‘Soft Power’ reality, he said, “It welcomes peaceful engagement and remains open to friendship and persuasions. “It does this all, while consolidating democracy; rule of law; reconciliation; upholding, promoting and protecting human rights; strengthening good governance; and rules-based systems. We are in fact enhancing the ‘Soft Power’ of our State.”
Secretary Weerakon pointed out to the packed audience gathered from throughout the world, that Sri Lanka has continued to display considerable independence in the conduct of its foreign relations while remaining non-aligned. “It also has a long history of diplomatic engagement characterized by a policy of friendship with all and enmity with none.”
Ambassador for the People’s Republic of China to Sri Lanka, Yi Xianliang, speaking on ‘Soft Power and its pervading influence across the Asian continent’, emphasised that, “China is using all the aspects of ‘Soft Power” and expects to keep close relationships with all the Asian countries and help peace to prevail in the region.”
“It’s a win-win cooperation that China expects and is the guiding philosophy China depends on. The vision of building a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation has received high appreciation from the international community,” he said.
Ambassador Xianliang also noted that, if the Chinese government opted to seek a ‘Hard Power” solution over the recent tense South China Sea dispute, it would be a “total disaster” for the whole Asian region.
“I was the head of the staff at the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry supervising this subject. I know every single truth behind this dispute. The reason China did not go for ‘Hard Power’ relief is its belief in ‘Soft Power’ and its concern for peace in the Asian region,” he noted.
The annual two-day ‘Colombo Defence Seminar – 2016’, themed on ‘Soft Power and Its Influence on Global Issues’, which drew to a close at the BMICH, saw diverse participation of local and foreign security experts, analysts and intellectuals, discussing a contemporary subject such as “Soft Power”- a new political theory developed in the late 20th century- considered enduring and sustainable, and equivalent to hard power which is unsustainable and destructive.
The seminar hosted nearly 800 participants, including representatives from 71 countries. Secretary of Defence Eng Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Secretary to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Esala Weerakoon, Army Commander- Lt. Gen Crishanthe De Silva, Navy Commander- Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne and Air Force Commander- Air Marshal Gagan Bulathsinghala took part in the concluding ceremony.