P.M. Khan describes Colombo as ‘special friend’ of Islamabad and offers $50 million credit line for cooperation in defense and security fields
Pakistan and Sri Lanka on Wednesday stressed the importance of achieving $1 billion bilateral trade, with both sides agreeing to work toward broadening and deepening the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement.
In a joint communique issued by the foreign ministries of both countries at the conclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day visit to Sri Lanka, they noted that the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference had reiterated the importance of strengthening economic relations in key areas of mutual interest. They also pledged to diversify trade and investment between both nations, it added.
“The visit afforded a timely opportunity to both sides to further build upon their close and regular consultations, particularly in the areas identified during the recently held foreign secretary-level bilateral political consultations, Joint Economic Commission session, and commerce secretaries-level talks,” read the statement, noting that both Islamabad and Colombo had agreed to hold frequent meetings to enhance cooperation.
During his visit, P.M. Khan reiterated Pakistan’s support for the socioeconomic development of Sri Lanka in line with his vision of a “peaceful” South Asia. Expressing satisfaction at the existing bilateral cooperation in defense, Khan announced a new $50 million defense 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,” read the Foreign Office statement.
Additionally, Pakistan pledged to provide Rs. 52 million for the promotion of sports in Sri Lanka to boost sports diplomacy. Khan participated in an interactive session with the sports community of Sri Lanka and announced the commissioning of the Imran Khan High Performance Sports Center in Colombo.
Both sides also reviewed existing engagements to promote cultural linkages, human resource development, and capacity building in diverse areas as well as educational and technical cooperation. “The Pakistan side announced 100 scholarships in the field of medicines (MBBS and BDS) as part of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Higher Education Cooperation Program,” read the statement. It said Pakistan had also announced plans to establish Asian Civilization and Culture Center at the University of Peradeniya at the Sri Lankan resort of Kandy.
Deliberating upon the “great potential” of religious tourism to Buddhist archeological sites in Pakistan, Islamabad and Colombo underscored the importance of enhancing cooperation in the field of tourism and highlighted the benefits of sharing expertise in the hospitality industry, including training and capacity building. “Both sides recognized the importance of enhancing air connectivity to promote people-to-people contact, tourism, trade and culture,” read the statement, adding that the importance of inter-religious dialogue and harmony was highlighted as key to promoting cultural diversity, peaceful co-existence and mutual empathy.
During Khan’s visit, five memorandums of understanding were signed: An MoU on cooperation in tourism; MoU between the Boards of Investment; MoU between Sri Lanka’s Industrial Technology Institute and Karachi University’s International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences; Intent of cooperation between ITI and COMSATS University, Islamabad; MoU between University of Colombo and Lahore School of Economics.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa jointly acknowledged the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association. Both sides also stressed the need to convene charter-based bodies and agreed to take forward the SAARC process for strengthening regional cooperation. The two sides reaffirmed their joint commitment to regional peace, security and stability, with Khan stressing that dialogue was the only means to peacefully resolve all outstanding disputes, including the Kashmir issue.
Inviting Sri Lankan businessmen to invest in Pakistan by exploring the opportunities being offered in the form of ease-of-doing business, Khan told the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference that trade connectivity among the countries was vital for poverty alleviation. He proposed establishing trade links, adding that both Pakistan and Sri Lanka could explore the idea of generating wealth through joint business activities and diverting wealth to alleviate poverty.
The leaders of both nations also shared experiences in poverty alleviation and use of technology to control food inflation, with P.M. Khan extending an invitation to the Sri Lankan president to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.