AsiaNews l Colombo, Oct 24 (newsin.asia) – A Friendship Forum to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) kicked off in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on Wednesday aiming to support the advancement of the BRI in the South Asian region.
The two day Forum was organised by the Association for Sri Lanka, China Social and Cultural Cooperation, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries in collaboration with the Organization for South Asian Regional Friendship and Cooperation with China and the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka.
The event was attended by delegates from ‘Friendship With China’ Organisations from Bangladesh, India, Nepal Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, who was the Chief Guest at the event said Sri Lanka was looking forward to the Belt and Road Initiative as it was already benefiting the island country.
Jayasuriya said Sri Lanka was part of the ancient Silk Route several years ago and at that time, the island was an international trading hub and through the Silk Route, Sri Lanka was able to trade with many countries.
“I am sure the Belt and Road Initiative would bring about drastic changes to the economies of several countries across the world and we are looking forward to this ambitious project,” Jayasuriya said.
“Sri Lanka has always been treating China as a special friend and I am sure this Friendship Forum would further strengthen our ties,” he added.
Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Champika Ranawaka said Sri Lanka had been a maritime trading hub throughout history and Chinese merchant ships had been frequenting the ancient Sri Lankan ports at Galle and Beruwala, in the south, Trincomalee in the east and Mannar in the north.
The Minister, said today, China remained a strong friend and partner to Sri Lanka and the island was one of the first countries to pledge its support to the BRI.
He added China had always been direct, open and consistent in its approach and the contributions from China had always been productive with tangible and visible results.
Lin Yi, Executive Vice President of Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Counties said the BRI had gained remarkable achievements within the short period of 5 years due to the full support of governments from all countries as well as the effort from many friendship organisations from across the globe.
Now there are many successful cases, for example, the deep sea port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Mombasa-Nairobi Railway in Kenya, Port of Piraeus in Greece, Hofusan Industrial Park in Mexico and so on,” Lin said.
“I sincerely hope that we could make consistent efforts in joint hands as the bond between our peoples and conduct more colorful activities on the broad platform of One Belt One Road,” she added.
China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Cheng Xueyuan said over the past five years, the BRI had developed from an initiative to a reality, from a vision to an important platform for building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind, and had become a well-received public product internationally.
Cheng said the trade value between China and those countries along the Belt and Road had exceeded US$ 5.5 trillion. China’s non-financial direct investment to these countries exceeded over US$ 80 billion. China has built 82
overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in these countries with a total investment of US$ 28.9 billion, which
created 244,000 job opportunities for the local people.
“The BRI may be China’s idea, but its opportunities and outcomes are going to benefit the world,” he said.
The envoy further explained that by the end of 2017, Chinese companies had completed infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka worth US$15 billion in transportation, water, electricity, ports and other fields, and made great contributions to the economic and social development of the island country.
“In addition, our pragmatic cooperation has also created more than 100,000 jobs for Sri Lanka, trained tens of thousands of technical and management personnel,” he said.