Now Imran Khan to visit Sri Lanka
International Desk || shiningbd
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in February, according to foreign official sources in Pakistan. He will be the first head of government to visit Sri Lanka since the pandemic struck last year.
“The visit is likely towards the end of February,” an official source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Hindu on Monday.
Khan’s visit, scheduled a month after Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s three-day visit to Colombo, will likely coincide with the early days of the 46th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, where a new resolution on Sri Lanka may be adopted by members. Pakistan is currently a member of the Council. In December 2020, Islamabad and Colombo held Foreign Secretary-level ‘Bilateral Political Consultations’ virtually.
A statement from the Pakistani High Commission — issued on December 17, 2020 — said Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood shared Pakistan’s perspective on “the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, progress of the CPEC, and Pakistan’s positive contribution to the Afghan peace process”. “He also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to SAARC and expressed the hope that the process of regional cooperation would be allowed to move forward,” he said.
Sri Lanka, which has close ties with Pakistan and India, has seldom commented on Indo-Pak. tensions. Following the Pulwama attack in February 2019, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “deeply concerned” about the developments following “the brutal terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama,” while “requesting” India and Pakistan to act “in a manner that ensures the security, peace and stability of the entire region.”
It is known, Pakistan is the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka in South Asia. Sri Lanka was the first country to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan, which became operational from June 12, 2005. 4,000 items can be imported to Pakistan from Sri Lanka. Bilateral trade between the 2 countries was US$400 million in early 2010, and is expected to increase to US$2 billion by 2012. In November 2010, President Asif Ali Zardari mulled a 250 million dollar export credit line that Pakistan would extend to Sri Lanka. Trade between the two countries reached $500 million by the end of 2010.
On February 12, 2012, A credit line for US$200 million was one of three Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The MoUs were signed during President Mahinda Rajapksa’s official visit to Pakistan, on the invitation of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Recently, the Sri Lankan Airlines has expressed an interest in expanding its operations in multiple cities in Pakistan and has also invited the Pakistan International Airlines to operate more flights to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Airlines chief marketing officer GT Jeyaseelan remarked that "Sri Lanka and Pakistan are two close, friendly neighbours," and that he looked forward to enhancing cooperation between the two airlines.