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India always a friend, but won't sacrifice regional interests for economic gains: Sri Lanka minister Faiszer Musthapha

In an exclusive chat with ‘Express’, the minister was responding to questions on Colombo’s increasing ties with China and the apprehensions it has ignited.

Published: 13th December 2017 10:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th December 2017 06:50 PM   |  A+A-

Faiszer Musthapha, Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Sri Lanka (Express Photo Service | Kaviyoor Santhosh)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: India will always be our closest neighbour and friend, assures Faiszer Musthapha, Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Sri Lanka. In an exclusive chat with ‘Express’ he was responding to questions on Colombo’s increasing ties with China and the apprehensions it has ignited.

“India will always be our friend, but you must understand the economic dynamics and we need economic support from all nations to move forward. However Sri Lanka will not sacrifice regional interests for economic gains,” said Faiszer Musthapha, reminding Sri Lanka’s bond with India has withstood the test of time.

The minister was on a three-day tour of Kerala leading a 12 member delegation to learn the role of women in local administration. Sri Lanka is in the process of ensuring 25 percent participation of women in local government.

Having survived 30 years of war Musthapha feels this is Sri Lanka’s last chance to move ahead to prosperity and development. “We have a lot to learn from India in terms of secularism, integrity and nationalism. In spite of so many ethnicities, languages and religions the nation identifies itself as India. It has elected leaders to positions of power irrespective of their caste or religion. I see India as a great example for all nations,” he said.

Sri Lanka has put its worst behind her and is the safest country in South Asia. Musthapha credits the transformation to the vision and secular outlook of President Maithripala Sirisena and other leaders. “ We have a leader who is very democratic and very secular in his thinking. He has won the mandate of the people in the North, South and every part of the country. Our slogan has been unity, diversity and strength – we need to build on this,”

On the apprehensions of minorities he claimed that they feel the country is more safe than it was under the previous regime and reconciliation is moving in the right direction. In Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickremesinghe and R Sampanthan we have a President, a Prime Minister and an Opposition leader respectively, who are very secular. This is Sri Lanka’s last chance to forget differences and move forward.

Faiszer Musthapha observed that the steady increase in the number of tourists from India is the biggest indicator of the special relationship between the two nations. “Colombo is like a weekend home or home away from home for many Indians. For those in the South it is less than an hour away and an exotic destination at affordable price,” he said.



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