Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha will be visiting Pakistan on a three-day tour, beginning on February 10, at the invitation of President Asif Ali Zardari who last visited Colombo in 2010.
During his stay in Islamabad, President Rajapaksha will meet President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Diplomatic sources commenting on the visit said this is a part of the Sri Lankan president’s efforts to seek support from regional countries and the international community in view of the UN Human Rights Council meeting to be held in Geneva later this month.
Sources in the President House, Colombo said on Wednesday that the two sides will hold discussions for further strengthening political, defence, cultural, tourism, media, economic, business and trade links between the two countries of the region. A number of bilateral agreements are also expected to be signed between the two sides.
According to sources, “The visit is aimed at enhancing bilateral ties between people of the two countries who share a common interest in regional peace and stability and the fight against militancy and terrorism”.
Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka were established in 1948 and since then the two countries have consistently maintained a close, cordial and mutually supportive relationship and enjoyed common perceptions on all global and regional issues.
Pakistan is also the second largest trading partner with Sri Lanka in the region with Sri Lanka being the first country to sign the Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan.
The Sri Lankan delegation will include Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Prof. GL Peiris, Member of the Sri Lankan parliament Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Karunatillake Amunugama and other senior officials.
President Rajapaksa will also visit the Buddhist heritage site in Taxila.
The last high-level contact between the two countries took place on the sidelines of the 17th SAARC Summit in the Maldives last year when Prime Minister Gilani met President Rajapaksa.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2012.