Sri Lankan ambassador hails robust diplomatic relations with Kuwait

Ambassador Kandipan Bala highlighted Sri Lanka's solidarity with Kuwait during the invasion and occupation of Iraq forces and said the country was among the first to reopen its embassy post-Gulf War.

  • Ambassador Kandipan Bala said Sri Lanka is committed to reclaiming its status as the “pearl of the Indian Ocean” and regaining its position as one of the most visited countries in South Asia

  • Kuwait is one of Sri Lanka’s primary sources of foreign exchange earnings, with expatriate remittances contributing approximately $7 billion annually.

  • Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development supports various projects that have contributed to the social and economic development of Sri Lanka.

  • In 2023, Sri Lanka welcomed 1.5 million tourists, including about 8,000 from Kuwait annually.

While praising the strong diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Kuwait that began in 1971, Ambassador Kandeepan Bala noted that Sri Lanka had supported Kuwait’s bid for United Nations membership in 1963, predating the establishment of formal diplomatic ties.

In an interview with Al-Rai newspaper, Ambassador Bala added that his country stood in solidarity with Kuwait throughout the difficult times it faced during the invasion and occupation by Iraqi forces. Sri Lanka voted in favor of all United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Ambassador Bala also pointed out that his country was one of the first to reopen its embassy in Kuwait after the Gulf War.

He added, “In 2021, Sri Lanka and Kuwait celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic relations by organizing a series of commemorative events in their respective capitals.” He noted, “The two countries share many platforms, such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Secretariat of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue, and numerous specialized United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council. We continue to exchange support within these international multilateral organizations.”

Economic relations

Ambassador Bala emphasized the significance of bilateral economic relations, highlighting their substantial growth, particularly following the initial signing of bilateral trade agreements in the early 1990s. This growth was further propelled by the expansion of traded products’ volume and scope, facilitated by regular joint meetings of the Ministerial Committee on Trade between the two countries.

Bilateral trade has continued to flourish over the years. Additionally, a memorandum of understanding was signed to hold periodic meetings between the Chambers of Commerce and Industry alternately in the capitals of both countries.

He highlighted that the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development is a significant source of funding for numerous infrastructure, irrigation, and rehabilitation projects that have contributed to the social and economic development of Sri Lanka.

He added that the fund has recently financed several projects aimed at upgrading and modernizing the country’s main universities. Furthermore, he explained that Kuwait is one of Sri Lanka’s primary sources of foreign exchange earnings, with expatriate remittances contributing approximately $7 billion annually.

Tourism sector

The ambassador mentioned the tourism sector in his country, stating, “The tourism industry has made a significant recovery in the post-Covid-19 period. Despite the economic downturn and the challenges faced after the pandemic, Sri Lanka welcomed nearly 1.5 million tourists in 2023. The number of tourists arriving from Kuwait has remained steady, with approximately 8,000 tourists visiting from Kuwait each year.”

He stressed that Sri Lanka is committed to reclaiming its status as the “pearl of the Indian Ocean” and regaining its position as one of the most visited countries in South Asia. Sri Lanka is consistently ranked among the top destinations globally for travelers seeking unforgettable experiences.

He explained that the country offers everything to cater to a wide range of vacationers, from stunning beaches and lush green landscapes to well-preserved relics of ancient civilizations and hospitable people. These factors collectively make Sri Lanka a wonderful tourist destination for travelers from Kuwait.

Sri Lankan community

He highlighted the role of the Sri Lankan community in fostering and strengthening friendly relations between the two countries. This community consists of approximately 130,000 Sri Lankan workers who contribute significantly by providing much-needed financial remittances to Sri Lanka and helping to build a positive image of the country among the people of Kuwait.

He added that his country has successfully diversified the deployment of migrant workers to Kuwait. This diversification includes moving beyond the traditional domestic sector to encompass various skilled and semi-skilled workers, as well as professionals in fields such as construction, infrastructure, education, health services, and caregiving. Such diversification not only contributes to Sri Lanka’s positive image in Kuwait but also plays a crucial role in its social and economic progress.

Kuwaiti investment opportunities

Regarding the potential for Kuwaiti businessmen to invest in Sri Lanka, the ambassador stated, “Sri Lanka is a lower-middle-income country with a population of about 22 million people. It is on the path to recovery after the severe economic crisis it faced in 2022, and there are ample opportunities for investors to partake in its growth narrative.” He added, “Our government has initiated a series of reforms in recent months to overcome the crisis.”

He added, “With the favorable business climate in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Investment Board has identified sectors such as information technology services, agriculture, tourism, hospitality, real estate, electronics, and light manufacturing as promising and rewarding opportunities for Kuwaiti companies to invest in Sri Lanka.”

Regional logistical advantage

Ambassador Bala revealed that Sri Lanka’s strategic location off the southern coast of India, along the main sea lanes between the eastern and western Indian Ocean, gives it a regional logistical advantage.

This is especially significant since Sri Lanka boasts relatively useful deep-water ports that facilitate sea trade in crucial goods. Despite this geographical advantage, it remains relatively untapped. Potential Kuwaiti investors may wish to explore investment opportunities in Sri Lanka across various sectors aligned with their interests.

Cooperation with National Council of Culture

Ambassador Bala emphasized that “acknowledging the significance of cultural exchanges, which have evolved into a powerful source of political influence in the modern era, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait, in collaboration with the National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters, has organized numerous cultural events, including those held in Kuwait, over the past five decades. These events feature world-renowned Sri Lankan cultural troupes making annual visits to showcase the cultural richness of Sri Lanka.”

Empowering diplomacy in Kuwait

The Sri Lankan ambassador viewed his diplomatic mission in Kuwait as very enriching in terms of understanding regional politics and dynamics. Arab countries have become increasingly interconnected and active in international relations, emerging as integral parts of the multilateral system in recent years. They bear responsibilities that contribute significantly to achieving peace and security in the region.

He explained that Arab countries’ contributions to the Third World through official development aid, grants, and loans are increasing. This, in turn, supports social and economic development in countries like Sri Lanka.

He pointed out that the presence of numerous diplomatic missions in Kuwait offers opportunities for close and intense interactions with countries from around the world. This interaction helps strengthen relations between countries for mutual benefit.

Kuwaiti society is very moderate, hospitable

The Sri Lankan ambassador said, “During my previous tenure as ambassador in Kuwait, not long ago, I established contacts that I still benefit from today. I continue to expand my network and strengthen working relationships with leaders and key institutions. The rich experience I have gained makes my task much easier.”

“Over the years, my network of friends in the public and private sectors has expanded, serving as a valuable source of information crucial for the embassy to initiate timely measures to address negative attitudes promptly. I find Kuwaiti society to be moderate, friendly, cooperative, and hospitable. As a result, we have consistently succeeded in advancing our national interests and priorities,” the ambassador added.

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