COLOMBO, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka can play a central role in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road proposed by China as the island nation enjoys a strategically important geographical location in the Indian Ocean, said a leading analyst.
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, former executive director of Sri Lanka 's Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua recently that with a history of innovation and active cooperation in maritime activities, Sri Lanka had the ability to play a vital and centralized role in promoting China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
"When China is proposing a cooperative mechanism to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road for joint development, Sri Lanka is ready to play a central role due to its geographical positioning at the center of the Indian Ocean," Abeyagoonasekera said in the exclusive interview.
He said that Sri Lanka can make its contribution in areas such as trade, combating terrorism and security and confidence building and cooperation on the "Belt and Road" initiative.
"China's proposal of the (21st Century) Maritime Silk Road has raised concerns in the international arena. Certain international political analysts and geo-strategists view this as another attempt of China projecting its great maritime power. Such speculation is a result of a lack of trust and confidence among the countries both in China's immediate and distant neighborhood," he told Xinhua.
Referring to the importance of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Abeyagoonasekera said that the it is a sleeping giant which will wake up and connect three continents, Asia, Europe & Africa, with trade and culture.
Talking about China-Sri Lanka relations, he said that Sri Lanka 's relations with China date back several centuries. Records on the Han dynasty's missions, which reached several South Asian countries including Sri Lanka, mark the earliest documented evidence of a Sino-Sri Lanka relationship.
"The strategic position of the island in the Indian Ocean made it a hub for ancient trade. Sri Lanka was one of the major ports in the Indian Ocean. It had been one of the prominent places for bartering over goods and the main entry port of the East to West sea route of the Indian Ocean."
Sri Lanka's support to China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road does not come as a surprise for several reasons, he further explained. Apart from its historical ties, China and Sri Lanka have continued to be steadfast friends since the island gained independence from its colonial rule.
He further said that the two countries have stood for each other at difficult times.
"China has always been supportive of Sri Lanka's decisions and has always respected the island's sovereignty. Today, China is Sri Lanka's largest donor providing financial and technical support for the development of infrastructure, trade and commerce," he said.