Published on: December 18, 2023

Sri Lanka embarks on a paradigm shift: President prioritizes peacekeeping in new Foreign Policy

• The President urges global adaptability amidst shifting geopolitical realities

President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a monumental shift in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy during a speech at the Final Presentation Night of the Colours Re-Awarding and Commissioning Parade held at the Sri Lanka Military Academy Diyathalawa Friday (15). Departing from the conventional approach of associating peacekeeping solely with the Ministry of Defence, the President revealed that peacekeeping is now an integral element of the nation’s broader security and foreign policy framework.

The President outlined the key components of the new foreign policy, emphasizing a holistic approach that extends beyond traditional political connections. Peacekeeping, climate change, and various other global concerns are now central pillars of Sri Lanka’s international relations strategy.

Furthermore, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the intricate challenges posed by the transforming global landscape, emphasizing the need for a proactive approach to international relations and urged a compelling call for the international community to navigate the complexities of the evolving global order with vigilance and a proactive mind-set.

To bolster regional cooperation, the President has directed the Secretary of Defence and service commanders to facilitate increased opportunities for neighbouring countries, particularly the Maldives and extend support to African nations. Additionally, the State Minister and Chief of Defence Staff are set to visit these countries to communicate Sri Lanka’s commitment.

Acknowledging a comprehensive paper on Sri Lanka’s role in UN peacekeeping, the President commended the proposals presented, pledging to discuss and implement them with relevant authorities. The President also noted the importance of the Ministry of Finance collaborations with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, underscoring its indispensable role.

Expressing his aspiration to see Sri Lanka assume a more significant role in peacekeeping, President Wickremesinghe addressed the evolving nature of peacekeeping missions. Drawing from historical context, he reflected on the dynamics of global politics during the Cold War, highlighting the ease of deploying peace forces where major powers like the US and Soviet Union concurred.

The President acknowledged the profound shifts in global dynamics since the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading to the dissolution of traditional alliances and the emergence of independent players and non-state actors.

He addressed the challenges faced by the UN Security Council in reaching agreements, citing the complexities of modern geopolitics. He pointed to the increasing role of the African Union in peacekeeping efforts in West Africa as a testament to the evolving international landscape.

The President also noted the on-going conflict in Ukraine, emphasizing the failure to reach a resolution and the resulting stalemate between Russia and Western nations. He highlighted the financial repercussions, including the recent decision by the US Congress to withhold further funding. Insights were shared on the impact of economic sanctions on Russia, with the observation that these measures redirected the nation’s economic influence into the Middle East, West Asia and Sri Lanka. This shift manifested in increased Russian tourism and investments.

President Wickremesinghe delved into the complex issue of Taiwan, underscoring the changing alignments and the influential role of China in the Indian Ocean. He pointed out the formation of strategic alliances, including collaboration between the US, India, Japan and Australia.

While expressing concern about the on-going conflict in Gaza, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the asymmetric nature of the war triggered by a non-state actor. He lamented the high human toll and the UN’s limited intervention capabilities. Reflecting on contemporary challenges, the President underscored the growing power of non-state actors and their access to advanced weaponry. He suggested that future UN missions might need to confront global drug operations due to their increasing influence.

The President concluded by emphasizing the imperative for the UN and its missions to adapt to changing geopolitics. Rather than opting out, he urged increased global involvement in addressing complex situations, emphasizing adaptability and foresight.

Recalling Sri Lanka’s historical involvement in peacekeeping, the President cited the establishment of a military academy in Diyathalawa in response to a request from the late General Dennis Perera. Listening to presentations by future officers, he expressed pride in the institutions and decisions made to ensure the quality of Sri Lanka’s armed forces.

President Wickremesinghe underscored the significance of maintaining well-equipped and well-trained armed forces, emphasizing the pivotal role of Sri Lanka’s education system as the foundation for military excellence. The President’s address signals a significant departure from the past, marking Sri Lanka’s commitment to a more comprehensive and globally aware foreign policy.

The ceremony was graced by the esteemed participation of the Secretary, Ministry of Defence Gen. Kamal Gunaratne (Rtd), the Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Shavendra Silva, Commander of the Army Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage, Commandant of the Academy Major General M.T.I. Mahalekam, Staff of the Academy, other officials and Cadets.

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