SL should tap Iranian tourists, improve trade - Think tank | Sunday Observer

SL should tap Iranian tourists, improve trade - Think tank

Dr. Abdulreza Faraji Rad
Dr. Abdulreza Faraji Rad

Sri Lanka and Iran should explore the possibility of strengthening relationships in tourism and trade with a view to benefit citizens of the two countries, says the head of a top Iranian think tank.

Director General of Strategic Council on Foreign Relations (SCFR), Dr. Abdulreza Faraji Rad who spoke to the Business Observer during a recent visit to Sri Lanka said the two countries should go a step further by looking at exchanging goods in local currencies as both nations have limitations on Dollars and Euros.

“Sri Lanka has a huge potential of capturing a greater slice of the nearly 9 million outbound tourists who flew to countries like Turkey, Georgia, UAE, Lebanon, Iraq and Ukraine last year. The reason why Iranians are not coming to Sri Lanka is due to the lack of promotion and therefore the tourist section of Sri Lanka should work on Iran. They should present this beautiful country and secondly resume direct flights,” said Dr. Rad who led a delegation representing the influential Iranian think tank to explore opportunities to strengthen bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Iran.

While both Iran and Sri Lanka enjoyed close commercial relations in the recent past, with Colombo exporting its premium tea to Iran and the latter providing crude oil to Sri Lanka’s only refinery for the last several decades, commercial relations were disrupted due to US-led sanctions against Iran on account of the dispute over the nuclear programme of the latter. However, according to Dr. Rad, it is now an opportune time to elevate the relationships to the next level given that the sanctions have been lifted with the signing of the nuclear agreement in 2015 thereby facilitating expanded trade, investment and tourism relations between Colombo and Tehran.

“Iranian tourists who travel to Turkey have economical relations. When the people know other countries, we will then have better economic relations. Likewise if the wealthy Iranian tourists come to Sri Lanka, definitely trade will get a boost,” said Dr. Rad calling for closer cooperation between the two countries and countries in the regions to ensure stability.

When asked how Sri Lanka could engage in economic relationships with Iran amidst pressure imposed by more powerful countries, he pointed out that Sri Lanka should learn from the experiences from other countries to devise its own strategy for the benefit of the country’s citizens.

“The interference of foreigners from North America, Europeans and others resulting in instability to the Asian region can hamper economic development. Sri Lanka first should have the will to trade with Iran. Thereafter, they should study how Iran is dealing with countries like India, Pakistan, Turkey, France, Lebanon, Iraq, Germany and Europe to create its own strategy,” Dr. Rad who leads the Strategic Council for Foreign Relations (SCFR), an independent body established by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to provide strategic reports to the Iranian Leader, highlighted.

The SCFR is a think tank and consultative body with a strategic approach in the field of foreign relations, established in 2006 on the directive of the Supreme Leader of Iran. Its main goals are to make macro decisions, opening new horizons in foreign relations, benefiting from the views of academia, formulate indicators to achieve the goals in foreign relations and communicate with like-minded institutions abroad. The SCFR is headed by Dr. Seyed Kamal Kharazi, former foreign minister of Iran from 1997 to 2005.