Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells on Friday said the United State and Sri Lanka have compelling shared interests that include countering violent extremism, strengthening maritime security, preventing narcotics smuggling, promoting investment and economic growth as part of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
During a briefing at the US Department of State on her recent trip to Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries, Ambassador Wells said ultimately, the quality of the partnership between the two countries will reflect the success in strengthening shared values, including on the critical issue of healing the wounds of Sri Lanka’s civil war.
Wells noted that Sri Lanka occupies some very important real estate in the Indo-Pacific region, and it’s a country of increasing strategic importance in the Indian Ocean region.
Assistant Secretary Wells, joined by Lisa Curtis, Deputy Assistant to President Trump, from the National Security Council (NSC), visited Sri Lanka, the first stop in her South Asia tour, on January 13–14.
During her visit, Wells said the US officials had productive meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was elected last November, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, representatives of the Opposition, as well as leaders of the Tamil National Alliance and civil society.
Commenting on the 2019 Presidential Election, which elected Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Wells said the election was noteworthy. “And I would say the election itself was noteworthy. Sri Lanka is Asia’s oldest democracy. The election was contested, it was fair, and it delivered a clear mandate to President Rajapaksa.”
During the meeting with the President, Wells and Lisa Curtis had conveyed a letter from President Trump emphasizing the value that the US place on continued engagement with Sri Lanka that’s pursuing the path of reform and reconciliation.
“We really welcomed the President’s statement that he wants to be President for all Sri Lankans,” the US official said.