The Sri Lankan president thanked Pakistan on Tuesday for helping the island nation root out terrorism from its soil, saying the government and its people were thankful to Pakistan for its assistance.
Sri Lanka is said to be the only country in the world to have defeated terrorism. Pakistan was a key supplier of weapons and aircraft for Sri Lanka’s military in its decades-long, bloody war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam that ended in May 2009.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in Sri Lanka on a three-day visit and met President Maithripala Srisena to discuss bilateral issues and trade cooperation. The two leaders also interacted with the media after leading their respective delegations for the signing of bilateral accords at the President’s Secretariat.
President Maithripala appreciated Pakistan’s cooperation in carrying out development projects in Sri Lanka. He said he would visit Pakistan to attend next the Saarc summit to be held in Islamabad. The two leaders agreed to reinvigorate ties between the two friendly countries with a focus on enhanced cooperation in trade, science and technology, defence production and tourism.
They stressed the need of exploiting the countries’ friendship for the development and prosperity of their people.
PM Nawaz mentioned the two sides agreed on pursuing multi-faceted interactions.
He said Sri Lanka had been a strong and steadfast friend of Pakistan and stood by it in difficult times. The island state enjoys the exceptional position for being the first country Pakistan entered into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
PM Nawaz said the current volume of bilateral trade did not reflect the true potential between the two countries and called for steps to achieve the target of $1 billion by the end of 2016.
Eight accords signed
Earlier, Pakistani and Sri Lankan officials signed eight bilateral agreements in the fields of business, finance, science and technology and healthcare.
An agreement on cooperation in the field of health was signed between the Pakistani government and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine.
PM Nawaz also called for closer military cooperation with Sri Lanka. “I conveyed our desire for more frequent port calls, participation in military exercises and defence seminars and training of military personnel,” he stated in a statement issued following the official welcoming ceremony.
He also reiterated Pakistan’s offer to setup cement and sugar plants in Sri Lanka on mutually agreeable terms for the long-term benefit of the Sri Lankan economy.
Speaking at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies in Colombo, Nawaz said he envisioned South Asia as a dispute-free zone where all the nations jointly fought against their common enemies of illiteracy, poverty and malnutrition.
“South Asia needs strategic stability,” he said while delivering a lecture. “We should build convergences and need dialogue for the better of region.”
Addressing a gathering of intellectuals, parliamentarians and diplomats on the topic “Pakistan-Sri Lanka Relations”, he said it was time for South Asian countries to focus their energies on better preparing themselves to handle global challenges.
He said he was also deeply touched by Narendra Modi’s decision to fly to Lahore last month on his way back from Afghanistan and in the next few days, the foreign secretaries of two countries would meet in Islamabad.
He added Pakistan had consistently been supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned government and was ready to support the resumption of peace dialogues between Kabul and Taliban.
Premier Nawaz said Pakistan was waging a comprehensive war against terrorism and striking at sanctuaries and hideouts of terrorists in tribal areas. Through intelligence-based information, the government has struck a strong blow to the sleeper cells of militants and the operation is in the final stage.
He said restoration of peace was not possible without the entire nation’s resolve and continued resilience. “Radicalisation and global terrorism cannot be eliminated until its root causes are addressed.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2016.