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The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) launched the Ambassador Forum discussion series on Thursday, 15th July 2021. The inaugural event, which was held virtually, focused on “South Asia’s Approach to the New Normal in the Post Covid-19 World.” The webinar provided a rare opportunity to bring together high level panelists from the South Asia region including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The Actg. Director General of the LKI, Ms. Savitri Panabokke in her welcome remarks, highlighted that the webinar seeks to explore how South Asia has adapted to the new normal and could benefit by sharing best practices and experiences in responding to the pandemic. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena’s message, read by Secretary to the State Ministry of Regional Cooperation, A. Senanayake, noted that COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the region and beyond and that cooperation between countries and regions remains the only viable means to combat this scourge and to revive flagging economies. State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya, during the introductory remarks, stated that the pandemic has forced countries to consider adopting a more sustainable approach to support their economies and despite prevailing uncertainties, there lies substantial opportunity for deeper cooperation to foster economic growth and development in South Asia.
Panellists at the Forum included Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammed Ashraf Haidari, the High Commissioner of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Tareq Mohammed Ariful Islam, the High Commissioner of the Republic of India Gopal Baglay, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Maldives Omar Abdul Razzak and the Acting High Commissioner of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Tanvir Ahmad. The discussion was moderated by George Cooke, Diplomatic Historian and Initiator of Awarelogue Initiative.
With the pandemic progressing into its second year, the discussion focused the necessary measures countries in South Asia needed to adopt in relation to the economic, political and social realities of the new normal. They reiterated the substantial opportunities present for expanding cooperation to foster economic growth and development in South Asia, as well as to strengthen existing diplomatic relations. They also evaluated each country’s best practices, concluding that the rapid fusion of new knowledge into preventive action, remains crucial to prevent the further spread of the virus and sustain economies. In his vote of thanks, Director of the LKI Chathuka Senanayake thanked the participants for ensuring a stimulating and informative discussion.
The event was also attended virtually by leading policymakers and experts, and senior officers of the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka. The panel discussion was followed by a Q & A session.