Russian–Sri Lankan relations

AS OF JULY 2019

Russian - Sri Lankan relations

The diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Sri Lanka were established on February 19, 1957, but our bilateral ties had been developing long before this significant date.

We find first mentions of Ceylon in Russia the memoirs of our merchant and traveler Afanasiy Nikitin in the 15th century. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries several princes, scientists and geographers travelled to the island, including Count Saltykov, well-known traveler and artist who visited it in 1841 and 1845-46 and later published a book on his journey. Professor Ivan Minaev, renowned Russian expert on Buddhism, contributed to the Russian oriental studies by introducing Ceylon to the general Russian public. Prominent Russian writers Anton Chekhov and Ivan Bunin visited the island in the late XIX century, as well as Future Russian Emperor Nikolai II in 1891, the same year the Russian Consulate was established in Galle.

In the 1960-1970s Russia and Sri Lanka developed close relations in the area of trade and economy as well as in the field of scientific, technical and cultural cooperation. Moscow and Colombo signed agreements on opening air and sea travel routes and on training of Sri Lankan specialists in the USSR. The Soviet Union assisted Sri Lanka in constructing a metallurgical plant in Oruwella, tyre-producing enterprise in Kelaniya as well as milling and house constructing plants.

In 1959 the Russian-Sri Lankan Friendship Society was established in Moscow.

Our ties further expanded after the visits of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka H.E. Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike to the USSR in 1963 and 1974.

The Russian Federation, being the successor to the USSR, has continued developing its bilateral relations with Sri Lanka in an environment of friendship, mutual understanding and amiability. Our countries have similar approaches to the solution of the majority of pressing international or regional challenges. There are no contradictions or unresolved issues in our relations.

Moscow and Colombo maintain a close political dialogue at the highest level. The first working visit by a Sri Lankan President (H.E. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa) to Russia took place in 2010, during which he met then President of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Dmitry Medvedev. In 2011 H.E. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Russia to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. On the event’s sidelines he had a second meeting with H.E. Mr. Dmitry Medvedev.

On March 22-24, 2017 President of Sri Lanka H.E. Mr. Maithripala Sirisena was in Moscow on an official visit. He held fruitful bilateral negotiations with President of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Dmitry Medvedev. On June 15, 2019 President of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Vladimir Putin met President of Sri Lanka H.E. Mr. Maithripala Sirisena on the sidelines of the 5th summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

Russia and Sri Lanka have regular interparliamentary exchanges. In February and September 2014 two parliamentary delegations led by State Duma Deputy Chairmen Mr. Sergey Zheleznyak and Mr. Nikolai Levichev respectively visited Colombo. A delegation headed by Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Federation of the Russian Federation Mr. Ilyas Umakhanov visited Sri Lanka in November-December 2015. In October 2017 the Sri Lankan parliamentary delegation, led by H.E. Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament, participated in the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (St. Petersburg, Russia) and had meetings with Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Federation Mr. Evgeniy Bushmin and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Mr. Pyotr Tolstoy. The Sri Lankan parliamentary delegation headed by Minister of Transport & Civil Aviation Hon. Mr. Arjuna Ranatunga participated in the Second International Forum «Development of Parliamentarism» that was held in Moscow on July 1-3, 2019.

Both countries’ foreign ministries maintain regular bilateral contacts. Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov paid a working visit to Colombo in October 2009, during which he held talks with President of Sri Lanka H.E. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Rohitha Bogollagama. In May 2012 Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. G.L. Peiris made an official visit to the Russian Federation. On the sidelines of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2013 H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov and H.E. Mr. G.L. Peiris signed a Joint Statement between the Russian Federation and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka declaring that both Sides will not be the first to place weapons in Outer Space.

In June 2015 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Mr. Ajith P. Perera participated in the High Level Conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on «Security and Stability in the Region of SCO» held in Moscow.

On March 23, 2000 an Inter-ministerial consultations mechanism was created in accordance with the Protocol signed in Colombo by the Russian and Sri Lankan Ministries of Foreign Affairs. The most recent consultations at the Director of Department level were held on November 14, 2011 in Moscow.

The law enforcement and defence agencies of the two countries have established close ties. In May 2017 Inspector General of Police Mr. Pujith Jayasundara visited Russia to participate in the VIII International Meeting of High Ranking Officials Responsible for Security Matters (Zavidovo, Tver Region of Russia). In April 2018 Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Mr. Kapila Waidyaratne PC attended the «VII Moscow Conference on International Security». On June 26, 2019 on the sidelines of the International Military-Technical Forum «Army-2019» (Kubinka, Moscow region of Russia) Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov held talks with Chief of Defence Staff of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne.

The legal framework of our bilateral relations has been expanding in recent years. In 2015 Russia and Sri Lanka signed the Treaties on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, on Extradition, on Transfer of Sentenced Persons as well as Agreements on visa free travel for holders of diplomatic and official/service passports and on the establishment of the Inter-Governmental Commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation. On February 11, 2016 the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Mass Communications was signed. On March 24, 2017 the Intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Fisheries, two Memoranda of Understanding on Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation and on Cooperation in the field of Tourism and the Protocol on Cultural Cooperation for the years 2017-2019 were signed. The Intergovernmental Agreement on Military Cooperation between Russia and Sri Lanka was signed on September 3, 2018 during the visit of the Sri Lankan delegation led by Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Mr. Kapila Waidyaratne to Moscow.

The value of bilateral trade between Russia and Sri Lanka in 2018 has reached $400 million (Russia’s import amounted to $294.4 million and the exports – to $105.7 million). Russia continues to be the largest consumer of Ceylon tea.

On February 10-12, 2016 the first session of the newly established Russia-Sri Lanka Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation was held in Moscow, followed by the second on October 24-26, 2017 in Colombo.

On October 28, 2018 direct Colombo-Moscow flights by Aeroflot were reestablished (since December 17, 2018 flights are carried out twice a week by Rossiya Airlines, member of the «Aeroflot – Russian Airlines»), which has already greatly contributed to the development of our bilateral tourist ties. Sri Lanka remains a popular place of attraction for Russian travelers. In 2018 more than 64 thousand Russian tourists visited the island.

The Sri Lanka-Russia Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has been operational since 2001.

The Friendship Society «Sri Lanka – Russia» in Colombo also continues to function successfully. The Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Colombo organizes Russian language courses, ballet classes and chess training for Sri Lankan children and provides art and musical education.

For the 2019/2020 academic year Sri Lanka received 40 Russian Government scholarships for its citizens to study in Russia.

Upon the request from Sri Lanka Russia provided humanitarian assistance amounting to $24 million in August 2017 following the destructions caused by floods and landslides across the island.