Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States, addressed the participants of the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) at the International Diplomacy Conference organized by the National Student Leadership Foundation. The Diplomacy Conference was held at the American University in Washington DC on August 11, 2004.

The National Student Leadership Conference sponsored by the National Student Leadership Foundation is a forum that brings together student leaders from around the US and abroad, to explore issues in international relations, diplomacy, terrorism, political influence, and the changing world economy. Approximately 300 students had registered to participate in the August 2004 program. The International Diplomacy Program also enables students to gain leadership skills through an exploration of current security issues facing the global community and a simulation of the United Nations System. Past speakers at this forum have included Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Attorney General Janet Reno, Supreme Court Justices, as well as President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn and former Justice of the ICJ Stephen Schwebel.

Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe’s address entitled, “Promoting Foreign Policy Goals of Sri Lanka” was a comprehensive and substantive briefing that included a historical profile of the country and US-Sri Lanka relations, as well as, an account of Sri Lanka’s interests in the US. Commenting on his role as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Subasinghe discussed in detail the efforts involved in the realization of the four objectives on which Sri Lanka’s interests in the US are predicated upon. These objectives include, deepening and broadening the US-Sri Lanka bilateral partnership in its economic, political, cultural and diplomatic dimensions, securing greater trade and capital market access for Sri Lanka in the US and securing higher levels of US investment in the country, increasing Sri Lanka’s access to the IMF, the World Bank and US Government for development assistance and fourthly, providing quality Consular Services and outreach activities to the expatriate community and the US public.

Providing useful insights into each of the four foreign policy objectives, Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted that a small country such as Sri Lanka has been successful in accessing 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’s address received a standing ovation from the 300 student participants and the faculty members present and, 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, status of women in Sri Lankan society, and the Bush administration’s support for relations with countries in South Asia.

Encouraging the participants of the NSLC to avail themselves fully of the opportunity provided for visiting Sri Lanka under the US Study Abroad Programs such as the Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program and the post-graduate programs sponsored by the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies (AISLS), Ambassador Subasinghe said, “ As prospective future leaders, the experiences and insights gained through this program will not only broaden your understanding of Sri Lanka but will also broaden your perspectives on the various dynamics that govern life in South Asia. Such informed understanding is critical to fostering harmony among countries in the world.”

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

11 August 2004

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