Opening ceremony of a Friendship Forum to celebrate the 5th anniversary of unveiling the Belt and Road Initiative is held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Oct. 24, 2018. (Xinhua/Ajith Perera)
A Friendship Forum to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative kicked off in here on Wednesday.
Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who was also the chief guest at the event, said Sri Lanka was looking forward to the Belt and Road Initiative as it was already benefiting the island country.
Jayasuriya said Sri Lanka was part of the ancient Silk Road in history and at that time, the island was an international trading hub and through the Silk Road, Sri Lanka was able to trade with many countries.
"I am sure the Belt and Road Initiative would bring about drastic changes to the economies of several countries across the world and we are looking forward to it," Jayasuriya said.
"Sri Lanka has always been treating China as a special friend and I am sure this Friendship Forum would further strengthen our ties," he added.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, proposed in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Champika Ranawaka said Sri Lanka had been a maritime trading hub throughout history and Chinese merchant ships had been frequenting ancient Sri Lankan ports at Galle and Beruwala, in the south, Trincomalee in the east and Mannar in the north.
Today, China remains a strong friend and partner to Sri Lanka and the island is one of the first countries to pledge its support to the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.
He added that China has always been direct, open and consistent in its approach and China's contributions to Sri Lanka have always been productive with tangible and visible results.
Lin Yi, Vice President of Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Counties, said the Belt and Road Initiative had gained remarkable achievements within the short period of five years due to the full support of governments from all countries as well as the effort from many friendship organizations from across the globe.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan said over the past five years, the Belt and Road Initiative had developed from an initiative to a reality, from a vision to an important platform for building a community of shared future for mankind, and had become a well-received public product internationally.