Vietnam and Sri Lanka have a special relationship. President Ho Chi Minh visited Sri Lanka three times in – 1911, 1928 and 1946- and he lived in the New Colonial Hotel in Colombo when he was seeking a path to national liberation. Vietnamese and Sri Lankan people have long supported each other in their respective national liberation struggles. The current leaders of Sri Lanka include individuals who protested the war in Vietnam. The Sri Lanka- Vietnam Solidarity Association set up in 1966 has been active in boosting bilateral ties. Despite instability in the world, the friendship between Vietnam and Sri Lanka has developed constantly over the past years.
Vietnam re-opened its embassy in Colombo in April, 2011, and President Truong Tan Sang made a state visit to Sri Lanka in October the same year. These events have contributed to strengthening bilateral ties. In recent years, bilateral cooperation in politics, economics, culture and education has been strengthened. The two sides have closely cooperated in the Non-Aligned Movement and other international forums. Sri Lanka has closely cooperated with Vietnam in regional and global forums and supported Vietnam’s bid to join the UN Human Rights Council in the 2014-2016 term.
However, economic relations between Vietnam and Sri Lanka have remained modest due to the 30-year civil war in Sri Lanka, which ended in May, 2009. The resumption of peace in Sri Lanka opened new prospects for the development of cooperation with Vietnam in all fields, especially in economics. In the first two years after the war, Sri Lanka achieved an annual growth rate of 8% with a GDP of 59 billion USD. Its 20 million people with per capital income of nearly 3,000 USD represent a great deal of potential purchasing power. Vietnam considers Sri Lanka a gateway to the South Asian market, Sri Lanka has already signed a Free Trade Agreement with India and Pakistan, which together have more than 1.5 billion people. Sri Lanka is implementing a post-war economic restructuring and development plan. In its economic development policy, Sri Lanka pays particular attention to developing economic ties with Vietnam hoping that Vietnamese enterprises will increase their investment in oil and gas, telecommunications, machinery engineering, and fisheries. Sri Lanka also wants to expand cooperation with Vietnam in order to penetrate the ASEAN market. Since 2010, 2 delegations of Sri Lankan businesses have visited Vietnam to seek new investment. As a result, many cooperation projects in pharmaceuticals, health care, fisheries, tea production, agricultural machinery, and information technology have been signed. The two countries want to increase their bilateral trade to 1 billion USD in the coming years. To this end, they have signed several cooperation agreements on investment protection and promotion, crime prevention and control, culture, agriculture, and fisheries. A MOU on bilateral Political Consultation between the two countries’ Foreign Ministries, an MOU on cooperation in machinery engineering, an MOU on investment promotion and an agreement on educational cooperation till 2015 have also been signed. The two countries are finding many opportunities to strengthen their cooperation in multiple areas for the prosperity of each country.
Their fine political relationship, their traditional friendship, and Sri Lanka’s peace, stability and rapid development create favorable conditions for ministries, sectors and enterprises of both countries to boost their cooperation. Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa’s visit to Vietnam will open a new chapter in bilateral cooperation. During the visit, the Sri Lankan guest will meet with NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung, meet with Vietnamese state and government leaders and visit a number of localities in Vietnam. With their strong determination, Vietnam and Sri Lanka should see many breakthroughs in their relationship in the near future.