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LKI hosts Foreign Policy Round Table with National Defence College of Oman

An expert delegation from the National Defence College (NDC) of Oman visited the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) on 21 March. The 17-member delegation engaged in a round table discussion on overseas Sri Lankans in the Middle East and the educational dimensions of foreign relations.

The NDC delegation was headed by the Air Commodore Nasser Juma Mohamed Al Zadjali (Strategic Director of the NDC), and Air Commodore Hamdan Murshid Abdullah Al Lahori. The Ambassador of Oman to Sri Lanka, Moosa Hamdan Moosa Al Tai, accompanied the delegation. LKI Research Associate Rapti Ratnayake delivered a presentation on the opportunities and challenges relating to overseas Sri Lankans in the Middle East, while also considering bilateral relations between Oman and Sri Lanka.

The presentation focused on possible avenues for protecting unskilled Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle East, and the need to engage with Sri Lanka’s skilled labour abroad. It highlighted existing international conventions, bilateral agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on migration. This included a 2014 MOU between Oman and Sri Lanka on employment and training, which aims to facilitate cooperation via educational programs, and pushes for the prevention of human trafficking and illegal recruitment of labour. Ratnayake shed light on the importance of remittances from the Middle East, which accounted for about 8.5% of the country’s GDP in 2015, and on ways to reverse Sri Lanka’s brain drain.

The presentation also highlighted the longstanding relations between Oman and Sri Lanka. Oman has recognised Sri Lanka’s considerable potential as an investment hub, where a large number of Omanis have turned to Sri Lanka to invest in properties, especially within the luxury residential property sector. Sri Lanka has also become an attractive destination for tourists from Oman. Over 14,000 Omani tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2015 and it is hoped that about 20,000 Omani will visit this year.

The presentation was followed by an interactive discussion, involving questions about Sri Lanka’s progress in becoming a hub of the Indian Ocean, and as a related matter, on Sri Lanka’s education system and reforms. The participants discussed ways to strengthen Sri Lanka’s higher education via international partnerships, as well as its investment potential, regional networks, visa frameworks and resilience against fluctuating external factors. The discussion was moderated by LKI Executive Director Dr. Dinusha Panditaratne, with extensive contributions by Air Commodore Al Zadjali and LKI Research Director Ravindra Deyshappriya.

LKI is a think tank focusing on Sri Lanka’s international relations and strategic interests, to provide insights and recommendations that advance justice, peace, prosperity and sustainability. The institute is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, and is led by a Board of Management that comprises leaders in the public, private, non-governmental, and academic sectors. Its mission reflects the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister’s vision for Sri Lanka, to promote the country’s intellectual profile in the field of foreign policy research and engagement.

Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI)