PM Imran Khan has undertaken a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka on 23 February 2021 on the invitation of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa. This was PM Khan’s maiden visit to Sri Lanka where he was accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, members of the Cabinet and senior officials.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister received PM Khan on his arrival at Colombo and introduced the members of the Sri Lankan cabinet. Both premiers had their first one-on-one meeting at the official residency of Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Temple Trees, followed by delegation-level talks between both counterparts. During the first meeting, both premiers exchanged their views on the prospects of enhancing bilateral trade relations and peace in the region.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa commenced the session by extending his gratitude to the Pakistani PM and said that this visit symbolizes the deep affinity of Pakistani people towards the people of Sri Lanka. While praising the leadership qualities and charisma of PM Khan, he also appreciated his efforts in times of crisis and admired his activism.
“The ties between our two countries are closely linked by history, culture, religion, and our deep bilateral cooperation has become an all-weather friendship which has withstood the test of time,” said PM Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that both, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are developing economies facing the issue of coronavirus pandemic and developed nations can facilitate developing economies in debt suspension reliefs during this crisis.
“We shared a common problem of terrorism. Pakistan suffered the worst form of terrorism. Sri Lanka also combated terrorism for 30 years and Pakistan played its part to help the country,” said PM Imran Khan.
Following the joint presser, after a one-on-one meeting, PM Khan stressed that both countries can cooperate in a number of areas and especially in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. He said that “We have also discussed other areas where we can enhance our trading ties, where Sri Lanka can benefit from Pakistan’s connectivity in the future right up to Central Asia, and our trading ties would also mean that the two countries would come closer together.” He added that Coronavirus has exposed inequalities in the world and the United Nations should step in and help the poor countries to deal with the impact of pandemic.
He also invited his Sri Lankan counterpart to visit Pakistan and highlighted the recent discovery of a 1,700-year-old sleeping Buddha. “We are planning a Buddhist trail where all the great shrines and places of importance for the Buddhist community can be visited,” PM Khan said.
According to Radio Pakistan, the premier will hold talks with the Sri Lankan leadership to further enhance bilateral cooperation in diverse sectors including trade and investment, health and education, agriculture and science & technology, defence and security, and culture and tourism. Besides bilateral matters, views will be exchanged on key regional and international issues.
The Prime Minister’s program includes meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
During the visit, the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association will be also announced to further promote parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.
The Prime Minister will also participate in a joint ‘Trade and Investment Conference’ aimed at promoting trade and investment between the two countries. A number of MoUs to enhance bilateral cooperation will be signed during the visit.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted that “Sri Lanka and Pakistan share a close relationship and all areas of cooperation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be discussed and strengthened during the visit.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have maintained close, cordial and mutually supportive relations since 1948. The two countries share a commonality of views on a wide range of international and regional issues. Both sides also work closely at the international and regional fora including the United Nations and SAARC.
The Prime Minister’s visit would help further strengthen the Pakistan-Sri Lanka relationship and enhance mutual cooperation in diverse fields.