Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka

The most attractive Island throughout history

by V.L.B. Mendis

Few countries in the world could claim to have been so well known throughout its history as Sri Lanka. From earliest to modern times it has enjoyed an international reputation and been admired. The reasons for its fame have changed as often as its name in that as Taprobane in classical times it was associated with Precious stones, as Lanka in the Middle Ages it was the land of Buddhism, as Ceylon in the modern age it was coveted for its spices and as Sri Lanka in contemporary history, it has been notable for its policy of non-alignment and initiatives on its behalf.

This reputation is to a large extent the result of its geographical location and its products. It was the crossroads of international trade in the classical world as the half-way house for trade between East and West and the meeting ground of Greek, Persian, Aksumite, Chinese and Indian merchants. Later it was a forward base for the trading operations of Muslim merchants in South East Asia from where they were able to exercise control over the commerce of that region up to the 16th century when the arrival of European rivals challenged their position. In the trading empires of the latter the Island continued to be a focus both as a source of spices and for its commanding position in relation to both the Western and Eastern regions as it was astride the sea lanes to both.

(Excerpts from the essay published in Volume 1 Issue 1 of Lanka Courier – Click here to read the full text of the issue) 

Deshamanya Dr Vernon Loraine Benjamin Mendis was one of the best Sri Lankan experts on diplomacy and foreign relations of Sri Lanka. He served as the Secretary General to the Non Aligned Summit of 1976, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to United Kingdom and Canada, Sri Lankan Ambassador to France, and Director General of Foreign Affairs, Government of Sri Lanka. The above excerpts taken from the book, “Foreign Relations of Sri Lank: from Earliest Times To 1965”. He passed away on 23 June 2010.

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