SRI Lanka took another step into the Gulf yesterday with the official opening of its first-ever embassy in Bahrain.
The new mission could soon be followed by a school that would specifically cater to around 600 Sri Lankan children living
with their parents in Bahrain.
It is part of a new effort to enhance diplomatic ties between Bahrain and Sri Lanka, an up-and-coming player on the Asian stage.
"The setting up of the Sri Lankan mission in Bahrain is a milestone for both countries," said new Sri Lankan Ambassador R K M A Rajakaruna.
"This was a long-standing request which our government recognised by opening an embassy here to further improve bilateral ties."
He was speaking at the opening of the new embassy in Mahooz, which will represent the interests of 20,000 Sri Lankans in Bahrain.
Among those present were Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ghanim bin Fadhl Al Buainain, Foreign Affairs Ministry Under-Secretary Ambassador Abdulla Abdullatif, Sri Lankan External Affairs Deputy Minister Neomal Perera and around 70 members of the Sri Lankan community.
Mr Rajakaruna said the embassy was keen to develop economic, cultural, trade and tourism ties between the two countries, along with new areas of co-operation.
Meanwhile, the diplomat called on Bahrain for support in setting up a Sri Lankan school in Bahrain.
Mr Abdullatif responded by saying it was Bahrain's obligation "to support the Sri Lankan community to set up school".
Meanwhile, Mr Perera said that he had invited a delegation from the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry to attend
a conference in
Colombo this year.
He said Sri Lanka's national economy was growing by eight per cent and it wanted to strengthen ties
with Gulf and Arab countries to work on common areas of interest.
Sri Lankan citizens in Bahrain have been calling for an embassy for years, claiming they were facing unnecessary obstacles in completing basic consular matters.