Posted on March 16th, 2021

Sarath Wijesinghe President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel and the President Ambassador’s forum

Friendship with Sri Lanka and Myanmar

Friendship with Sri Lanka and Myanmar goes back to generations with friendly and cultural bonds on religion culture and long lasting friendships we had for generations. The cultural religious and political prelateship between Myanmar and Sri Lanka spans a period of around thousand years. The relationship has been mutually beneficial for both countries on many fronts. It serves as a good foundation, to strengthen the friendship between the two countries. With the rise of Asia as the central political and economic forces of the world we can make together Buddhism again the unifying force in Asia as well as the new globalized world at a time when Buddhism is widely spread in the western world. We can together make Buddhist thought and Buddhist way of life a collective reality so that the world at large could gain long lasting solutions. Sinhala ‘’Bikkues’’ resolved conflicts between Sri Lanka and Myanmar on trade during King Parakramabahu (1153-1186) and Alanungsitha (1113-1165) and it was Sinhala Bikkues who came to rescue the relations, according to ‘Chulawansa’. A settlement was thus brought about through the mediations of Sinhala Bikkues.- see Sirisena 1978pp33- Myanmer Sanjaraja seeks Refuge in Sri Lanka in 1167, when king Narathu  left Myanmar in disgust  and sought refuge in Sri Lanka( 1167-1170)- The Sanjaraja stayed in Sri Lanka for six years. Sanjaraja Uttarajiva after return to Myanmar was hailed the first Pilgrim of Sri Lanka and was indicates that Sri Lanka was considered as the foundation head of Tharavad Buddhism. Chapata returned to Myanmar along with four other minks so that they could perform ecclesiastical acts separately. According to the Burmese chronicle Hmanan Yasawinkly (1112-1167CE) King of Burma visited Sri Lanka married a daughter of the Sinhalese King and returned with the image of Maha Kassapa tether who as highly venerated at the time in Sri Lanka.

Tradition and cultural ties

These are the traditional religious and cultural ties apart from trade and business thriving then in the friendly nations bonded together in many ways with excellent relations with kings and the people to people contacts that continues to date with diplomatic relations as members of the United Nations. In the field international relations Myanmar is a member of BIMSTIC and ASIAN both of which are sub regional international organizations which are powerful with 1.5 billion people and 3.5 trillion dollars in BMISTEC and 640 million people and 86%world population in ASIAN when Myanmar is a nation with normal potential situated in a naval strategic route with so many natural resources which attracts world powers to make friendship with.

Difficult Patch

Currently Myanmar is going through a difficult patch again with the Army rule which is not attractive to the west mainly on the human rights front. She had a series of breaks on democratic governments with the most recent break on after the democratic rule of ‘Aung San Kyi’ the leader of National League of democracy that commenced on 1990and ended on 2011 with an army coup again by army leader ‘Min Aung Hlaing’ which is running with a great resistance form the people and the world as before. Army rule has not been alien to Myanmar and the democracy have her rejuvenation and a recognition and past glory of the time of Na win and U Tang one time UN secretary General who brought Burma to fame in the international arena. Myanmar was popular and liked by all members of BMISTIC, ASIAN, SAARC and most UN member nations and international organizations except for the diminishing process of democratization due to army rule reactivating intermittently. She has enormous wealth on the ground and hidden the world is aware and awaiting to explore and cannot rule out discreet involvements with hidden agendas. She needs genuine and good friends and the best friend to use the good office may be Sri Lanka with historic, religious and cultural bonds running back to thousands of years. We have a proud history of negotiating on our behalf and others previously on many crisis situations in the world. When India and China had issues Madam Bandaraneike offered her good office as leader of the NAM and Sri Lanka and a respected leader respected by others. She used her personal goodwill and charm with Indira Gandhi in the resolution of the ‘Kaththive’ issue and the Indian labour which was brewing for generations unresolved. On the other hand Army rule is not alien to our region Bangladesh, and Pakistan had iron fist army rules but gradually reverted back to functioning democracy. Army rule I Myanmar is pressurized by the world and it may be difficult to sustain with corona and the downtown on the economy worldwide with great strain to the world economy, making negotiations easier now. Though there were precedents in Commonwealth on undemocratic countries such as Pakistan then, Asian attitude is different from that of the western patterns of steps on such issues.


BIMSTIC has five members from South Asia and two from South East Asia with 1.5 billion people, with 22% world population, and 1.5 billion income with 2.8 trillion GDP being a powerful but a friendly group with no rifts or differences who will be meeting indifferences such as SAARC. India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan Sri Lanka Myanmar and Thailand are like minded friends who will be meeting in Sri Lanka to discuss the matters of mutual interest mainly on economic front with no politics in agenda. The group is meeting in Sri Lanka under a friendly atmosphere in order to discuss only the economic issues and the best opportunity to discuss the mutual issues to be resolved amicably. It is also advisable to use the good office of the ‘Bikkues’ who are always in the forefront in advising the Kings and governance from time immoral. ASEAN and SAARC are regional organizations based in Asia where as defund EU has been once the most developed regional organization SAARC was aspiring to follow to be.

Ground Situation

Ground situation is different from the outward appearance in that the Military has substantial power from the 2008 constitution still in force with ¼ of the parliament and powers over oil gas and sources of income and important portfolios with the military. Out of 476 MP’s 396 belongs to the Democratic Party and has an overwhelming supper but 400 sitting MP’s democratically elected are under house arrest. Protests are all over and 184 people have already dead with 18000 in detention. There is resentment all over the country with professionals and academies to have come to the forefront in support of the pro-democracy movement with the result that the use of good office and a settlement is now an easy matter.

Good office of the State and the ‘Maha Sanga’

Maha Sanga in Sri Lanka has played a pivot role in matters of good office and propagation and enhancement of Buddhism and are the best ambassadors to initiate actions better than the state intervention. This is something new experience to both countries and if both parties use the historic bonds with the religious and cultural bonds it may be a good start to have a working relationship. There are leading businessmen who have started business in Myanmar with lot of hopes on the open and hidden potentials available untapped. One must think in terms of economic diplomacy and the other areas such as tourism with tremendous potentials to both countries. All these together will have a collective effort and a new bond trend and hopes with friendship that creates hopes and good will. Media too will have a major part to play in these innovative propositions which may attract the Military government and the people of Myanmar

Good Office of Professionals Academics and Business community – a way out

It is a good idea for the Bar Association to offer a new Constitution and the Organization of Professionals to communicate with the counterparts and the two Ambassador in Sri Lanka and Myanmar with concrete proposals. Do it in good faith and trust with the intention of helping our friendly nation and of course ourselves as if and when they do well we too will be benefited and the good will we created  with go far and beyond Geneva Process. May everybody be peaceful extend and we extend loving kindness to all Human and other beings.

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