Outreach to Current and Future Policy Makers Studying US-South Asia Relations

Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States, addressed nineteen students of the MA International Affairs Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University in Washington DC on November 18, 2004 at the Embassy of Sri Lanka. The graduate students are participants of the course on “US-South Asia Relations” taught by Karl F. Inderfurth, former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and currently Director, International Affairs Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University. Ambassador Inderfurth was the moderator at the Embassy briefing.

Ambassador Subasinghe’s presentation included a comprehensive and substantive overview of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy and domestic policy efforts in the context of the global economy, international aid, trade and technology, peacekeeping, terrorism, nationalism, human rights and regional cooperation. In his address, the Ambassador provided a profile of the country's twenty year old conflict, current efforts at resolution of the ethnic problem, the role of the international community and recent political developments in Sri Lanka. Speaking on the status of the Peace Process, the Ambassador mentioned that the Peace Process was not in jeopardy as there is a strong commitment on the part of the President, the Leader of the Opposition and political parties for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and an increased appreciation among the Opposition and the President for adopting a bipartisan approach to dealing with critical national issues, such as the ethnic problem

Providing useful insights into US-Sri Lanka relations, as well as, Sri Lanka’s interests in the US., Ambassador Subasinghe also briefed the group on the present status of US-Sri Lanka bilateral relations and the US –Sri Lanka trade and economic partnership. Commenting on US- Sri Lanka bilateral ties, the Ambassador highlighted that a small country such as Sri Lanka has been successful in mobilizing the highest levels of the US political leadership both within the Executive and the Legislative branches. The US Government has invested significant political, financial and economic resources in the bilateral relationship in a very difficult and challenging global context where Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan among others, compete for US attention and resources.

Responding to a question on Sri Lanka’s strategy following quotas being dismantled under the WTO Agreement on Textile and Clothing, Ambassador Subasinghe mentioned that Sri Lanka Government would need to support the local apparel sector to make it more competitive by making available good infrastructure, and ensuring lower business costs. Ambassador Subasinghe also added that Sri Lanka’s apparel industry has pursued a plan to increase competitiveness, move up market and find a niche market for its apparel products. Sri Lanka is also pursuing an aggressive policy of diversification of its export base to mitigate the adverse impact of the abolition of quotas in 2005. He also mentioned that the country has taken cognizance of the importance of trade security issues in terms of port security in the post 9/11 context and has already become partners of the US in its Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the MegaPorts Initiative.

Ambassador Subasinghe’s presentation, was followed by an extensive Question and Answer session. The Ambassador responded to a series of questions from the participants pertaining to recruitment of child soldiers and local and international efforts to combat the problem, Sri Lanka’s role in the SAARC forum, micro-loan programs in the country, issues related to child labour, prospects for peace, religious freedom in Sri Lanka and the Bush administration’s support for relations with countries in South Asia.

Ambassador Subasinghe has been keenly involved with the International Affairs Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University since 2003 and, was the guest speaker at the "Ambassador's Forum Series" at The Elliot School of International Affairs in December 2003.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

18 November 2004


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