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Sri Lanka urges Indian Ocean collaboration

Dec. 14, 2012 at 10:13 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Sri Lanka has urged Indian Ocean nations to collaborate on defense and economic issues.

Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa spoke Thursday at the "Galle Dialogue -- 2012" in Galle and said his country was looking for assistance as long as it doesn't come with "harsh conditions."

"Sri Lanka has always pursued a non-aligned foreign policy and our only interest is in our economic development," he said. "The country does not have the capacity to fund the projects that are necessary to unlock its economic potential. It is only natural that we extend our hands to our friends in other countries."

Rajapaksa noted that that many of the large companies setting up operations at Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port are Indian firms. Several years ago the Sri Lankan government established a $550 million tax-free port zone in Hambantota with companies from India, China, Russia and Dubai expressing interest in setting up shipbuilding, ship-repair and warehousing facilities in the zone.

The "Galle Dialogue -- 2012" forum was organized by the Sir Lankan navy under the aegis of Ministry of Defense, The ColomboPage internet news website reported.

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