Pakistan to give Sri Lanka US$50 million as credit for defence projects
Both countries agree to enhance bilateral trade to US$ 1 billion
By P. K. Balachandran
COLOMBO – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday (24) pledged a US$ 50 million credit line for Sri Lankan defence projects while ensuring efforts will be made to increase bilateral trade to US$ 1 billion. Presently it is about US$ 460 million while the potential is stated to be US$ 2.7 billion.
This was revealed in a Joint Communiqué issued at the end of the Pakistani premier’s two-day visit to Sri Lanka.
It said both countries expressed satisfaction at the existing bilateral cooperation in the field of defence, noting that the elevation of staff-level talks to Defence Dialogue has further provided an opportunity to expand security sector relations.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a new US$50 million defence credit line facility. The two sides stressed the need for stronger partnership for supporting and coordinating with each other in dealing with matters related to security, terrorism, organized crime and drug and narcotic trafficking as well as intelligence-sharing,” the communiqué said.
A high-level Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference, held on Wednesday to explore new avenues for enhancing bilateral trade and investment between the two countries, provided an opportunity for effective and meaningful engagement between the business communities of the two countries.
The two sides stressed the importance of realizing the goal of achieving US$ 1 billion bilateral trade target and also agreed to work towards broadening and deepening of Pakistan Sri Lank Free Trade Agreement.
Stressing regional connectivity, the Pakistan Prime Minister highlighted the opportunities presented by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), for regional economic growth and prosperity.
Pakistan also announced 100 scholarships in the field of medicine (MBBS and BDS) as part of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Higher Education Cooperation Program (PSLHECP). Sri Lanka appreciated the cooperation being extended by Pakistan in human resource development and capacity building.
The communiqué said the two parties, realizing the existence of great potential of religious tourism to Buddhist archaeological sites and the close ancient and cultural ties dating back to Gandhara civilization, had acknowledged the importance of enhancing cooperation in the field of tourism and the benefits of sharing expertise in the hospitality industry, including training and capacity building.
“The Pakistan side announced its initiative of establishing Asian Civilization and Culture Centre at University of Peradeniya. Both sides recognized the importance of enhancing air connectivity to promote people-to-people contact, tourism, trade and culture,” the communiqué said.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on tourism promotion and cooperation between the Boards of Investment of Sri Lanka and Pakistan were signed. Another MoU envisaged cooperation between the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) of Sri Lanka and the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi ,Pakistan. Cooperation between Industrial Technology Institute of Sri Lanka and COMSATS University Islamabad was the subject matter of yet another MoU. The University of Colombo and Lahore School of Economics have agreed to collaborate.
Prime Ministers Khan and Rajapaksa jointly acknowledged the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association, stressing on the need to strengthen parliamentary cooperation between the two sides.
The Pakistan Prime Minister, in his efforts to strengthen sports diplomacy, also participated at an interactive session with the sports community of Sri Lanka on Wednesday. At the event, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Sports and Youth Namal Rajapaksa, in the presence of the Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane, announced the commissioning of the ‘Imran Khan High Performance Sports Centre’ in Colombo.
Pakistan also announced it would be providing PKR 52 million (US$ 327,916) for promotion of sports in Sri Lanka, including through training and equipment.
Both countries underlined the importance of inter-religious dialogue and harmony as a key to promote cultural diversity, peaceful co-existence and mutual empathy and agreed to closely cooperate at regional and international fora on issues of mutual interest. Both countries also reiterated their commitment to the principles and objectives of the SAARC Charter and stressed the need of SAARC Member countries to build on convergences, for greater good of the people in the region.
They also stressed the need to convene the Charter Based bodies and agreed to take forward the SAARC process for further strengthening regional cooperation to achieve prosperity in the region.
Discussing the developments in regional and global environment the two sides reaffirmed their joint commitment to regional peace, security and stability, with Khan highlighting the need for peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes through constructive dialogue in accordance with international legitimacy.
Discussing the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID- 19, the two parties agreed on the need for collective efforts to deal with the pandemic. Sri Lanka thanked Pakistan for the tremendous assistance extended to the repatriation of stranded Sri Lankans in Pakistan since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Both sides reached broad consensus on ways and means to further strengthen cooperation in a comprehensive manner and agreed to hold frequent meetings; promote high-level and delegation-level exchanges; and enhance the process of consultations, cooperation and coordination between their respective institutions.
Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated Pakistan’s support for the socio-economic development of Sri Lanka in line with the vision of a “peaceful neighbourhood”, the communiqué said.