Sri Lanka will be a developed country only if it becomes the hub of the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the third meeting of the Asia Europe Political Forum (AEPF) 2019, launched in Colombo, yesterday.

“Sri Lanka has a very friendly relationship with other countries in the region. India has been our historical partner, which in fact, extends up to Pakistan and Bangladesh. We have an excellent relationship with Japan since the San Francisco Peace Conference, and we are one of the first countries which recognised the People’s Republic of China. The best example of this friendliness would be our expressway. China, Japan, India and ourselves all together have constructed the expressway in the country,” the Prime Minister said.

“We are maintaining these relationships, else Sri Lanka cannot be the hub of the Indian Ocean,” he added.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also highlighted the importance of the Maritime Silk Road initiated by China under the theme, ‘One Belt One Road’.

“The Mediterranean sea and the Indian Ocean are the oldest trade routes in the world. We have to remember, a bulk of world transport goes through the Indian Ocean. We are now putting together this system back which was broken by the Western colonial powers,” he said.

“Japan and India currently working together on the Asia-Africa growth corridor and India itself are focusing towards the region with their, look West, act East and neighbourhood first policy,” he added.

The Prime Minister also explained the key differences in the region such as, political and economic systems stressing the importance of each of those. “In Asia, there are three basic political systems, that differ between South Asia, East Asia and Central Asia. These three distinct units need to be recognised,” he said.

About 90 participants representing political parties in Asia and Europe attended the international conference organised by the Ministry of Primary Industries and Social Empowerment in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The closing ceremony of the conference will be held today.