Pakistan is a ‘close and genuine friend’
Sri Lankan PM tells Imran Khan, and stresses need to boost bilateral trade and investment through FTAs
By P. K. Balachandran
COLOMBO – Sri Lanka considers Pakistan a “close and genuine friend”, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told his visiting Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, during a one on one meeting on Tuesday (23).
Khan, who arrived in Colombo on a two-day state visit on Tuesday afternoon, met his Sri Lankan counterpart at Temple Trees shortly after arrival.
“Our People hold Pakistan in very high esteem. Pakistan is a friend who stood by and helped Sri Lanka in times of great need. We are grateful for the steadfast support, particularly during my presidency, when we had to fight a dangerous terrorist organization that was fully neutralized in May 2009,” Rajapaksa said.
He also extolled the visiting prime ministers saying, “You are not a stranger to the people of Sri Lanka, There are millions in this country who have admired your leadership on the cricket field as the Captain of the Pakistan National Team.”
In a media statement issued after the talks, Rajapaksa said that during bilateral discussions earlier in the evening, Khan and he had agreed to work closely towards enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the economic sector and a number of other areas including trade, investment, science, technology, defence and education.
“We also agreed to pursue the opportunities presented within the framework of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement,” he said, adding that the talks also focused on important regional and international issues as well as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The two parties, Rajapaksa said, had agreed to work towards increasing activities in the tourism and aviation sectors, adding, “Sri Lanka is grateful to Pakistan for agreeing to open the pilgrimage corridors for Sri Lankans to visit ancient Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan.”
He said the two parties had decided to restart parliamentary interaction through the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Groups.
Rajapakasa also expressed Sri Lanka’s belief that political stability and regional peace will be the key to achieving sustainable development, economic growth and prosperity in South Asia and added, “I admire Prime Minister Khan for his efforts in alleviating poverty and socio-economic disparity which play an important part of our development agenda.”
He said both countries would continue to work together to fight terrorism, religious fundamentalism and extremism.
“In our talks, we agreed to continue with the current mechanism to curb illegal drug trafficking, arms smuggling and other illegal activities by sharing information through the relevant agencies,” he added.
Rajapaksa also said Sri Lanka was thankful to Pakistan for the partnership in the field of sports and assistance to enhance sports training facilities in the country.
Noting that Khan will preside over a business and investment forum with a strong multi-sector business delegation from Pakistan on Wednesday (24), Rajapaksa said through direct interactions with their Sri Lankan counterparts, he expected to see a considerable increase in investments and business activities between the two countries.
Rajapaksa told Khan, “I am deeply grateful to you for honouring Sri Lanka with your visit here.”