He described India as the country which Sri Lanka has the longest ties with
India is regarded as the region's protector and the net security provider, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said.

In a recent Harvard University-organised online interview, President Wickremesinghe explained that as a small country with a strong democratic tradition and an open economy, Sri Lanka has always maintained its political independence and viewed India, its closest neighbor with the longest relations, as the protector of the region.

During the interview on March 24, he further emphasized Sri Lanka's desire to build a new economy via cooperation with India and the growth of the Asian region.

Wickremesinghe assumed office as President on July 21, 2022 after a long-drawn people's uprising sparked by the worst economic crisis since Sri Lanka's independence. He has been the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on six occasions.

According to Sri Lanka's Presidential Secretariat, President Wickremesinghe said that the government wants to upgrade the current free trade agreement between Sri Lanka and India to an economic cooperation and technical agreement.

"This is essential. India is going to be the next growth center and it will trigger off growth in South Asia. We are just 22 miles away and we have to work especially to ensure that the synergies of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu are brought together. This move is considered essential, as India is poised to become the next major growth center, which could positively impact South Asia's economy," he explained.

President Wickremesinghe also expressed his desire to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Asia's largest trade bloc. Furthermore, he stated that Sri Lanka would also like to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which would integrate the country with the three largest trade blocs in the world, namely India, RCEP, and CPTPP.

The President acknowledged that the smoldering big power rivalry in the Indian Ocean could be a sticky issue and that Sri Lanka needed to take this into account while pursuing these agreements.

"While our island has always maintained its political independence, India is regarded as the net security provider in the region and is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and the country which we have the longest ties with," President Wickremesinghe noted.

However, he added the presence of Chinese naval ships and the formation of alliances such as the Quad and Aukus have added to the complexity of maintaining peace and security in the region. To avoid any spillover effects from issues such as the Taiwan dispute, Sri Lanka has endorsed the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

During the online interaction, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the importance of maintaining uninterrupted access to the expanding Indian and African markets, which must not be disrupted by any big power rivalries or conflicts.

He also expressed confidence in Sri Lanka's growth prospects and its ability to achieve its vision of a new economy that aligns with the developments in the Asian region and India, with the support of other Indian Ocean countries and South Asia.