Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan paid a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka on 23-24 February 2021.
He was accompanied by a delegation of senior officials, including federal ministers and other senior government officials. Since coming to power it was Imran Khan’s first visit to the country. The events in Sri Lanka are a depiction of the positive relationship between the two countries. The ceremonial welcome by the Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa along with his cabinet is an example of this.
Bilateral cooperation in diverse fields was reviewed during the delegation-level meeting between the two countries. PM Khan also held meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Talks bore positive results and were held in a warm and friendly environment.
This visit was an opportunity for both countries to build upon their regular consultations, especially the ones identified during the recently held Foreign Secretary level Bilateral Political Consultations, Joint Economic Commission session, and the Commerce Secretaries-level Talks.
Both sides reached a consensus on the ways and means to further enhance cooperation in a much more detailed manner. The agreement was made to hold frequent meetings, promote exchanges at all levels and enhance the process of cooperation and coordination between related institutions of two countries.
PM Imran Khan reiterated Pakistan’s support for the socio-economic uplift of Sri Lanka under his vision of a “peaceful neighborhood”.
Focusing on the cultural engagement and human resource development, the existing extensive engagement was reviewed increased cooperation was agreed upon. Pakistan announced 100 scholarships for Sri Lankan students in medicine (MBBS and BDS) as part of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Higher Education Cooperation Programme (PSLHECP). The Sri Lankan side appreciates Pakistan’s support in the areas of human resource development and capacity building.
Acknowledging the great potential of tourism to Buddhism’s historic sites and noting the ancient close relations between two nations dating back to Gandhara civilization, both sides emphasized on the importance of enhancing cooperation in the field of tourism and highlighted the benefits of sharing expertise in tourism-related industries.
Pakistan also announced the establishment of an Asian Civilization and Culture Centre at the University of Peradeniya, Kandy. Both sides recognized the importance of enhancing public diplomacy on both sides leading to more connectivity on all levels of both countries.
Focusing on the trade sector of the economy, a Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference was held on 24 February 2021. It led to significant engagement between the business communities of the two countries.
The two sides stressed the importance of realizing the goal of achieving $1 billion bilateral trade target and agreed to work towards broadening and deepening of Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement.
MOUs were also signed between both countries, promoting future cooperation in different areas:
- MoU between Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on Cooperation in Tourism
- Intent Cooperation between Industrial Technology Institute of Sri Lanka and COMSATS University Islamabad
- MoU between University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and Lahore School of Economics, Pakistan
- MoU on cooperation between the Board of Investment of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Board of Investment of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Both PMs acknowledged the need for reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association.
Discussing the bilateral cooperation in the field of defense, both countries expressed satisfaction at the existing relationship. PM Khan announced a new $50 million defence credit line facility. The two sides emphasized on the need for stronger partnership for supporting each other in fields related to security, terrorism, organized crime and drug and narcotic trafficking and lastly in intelligence-sharing.
To support the sports diplomacy, PM Khan participated in an interactive session with the sports community on 24th February 2021. There, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Sports and Youth announced the commissioning of “Imran Khan High Performance Sports Centre” in the country’s capital.
On the other hand, Pakistan announced Rs. 52 million for the promotion of sports in Sri Lanka, including through training and equipment.
The two sides noted the close cooperation between the two countries at regional and international fora on issues of mutual interest and agreed to further strengthen a coordinated approach on such matters.
Both countries reiterated their commitment to SAARC charter and stressed the need of SAARC member countries to build on convergences, for the good of the people in the region. Both sides stressed the need to convene the Charter Based bodies and agreed to build on the SAARC process for further strengthening regional cooperation and achieving prosperity in the region.
Discussing the regional developments, PM Imran Khan stressed on the importance of using dialogue to resolve issues, via a constructive manner, while respecting the international laws.
Imran Khan highlighted the opportunities that China’s Belt and Road Initiative, while talking about the prospect of economic growth presented by CPEC for both countries.
Discussing the ongoing pandemic, both sides emphasized the need for collective efforts to deal with the crisis. Sri Lanka thanked Pakistan for the tremendous assistance extended to the repatriation of stranded Sri Lankans in Pakistan since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
While echoing the commitment of the new government to further strengthen the bilateral relations, PM of Sri Lanka thanked the government, and people of Pakistan for the constant support extended by country to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation and extended an invitation to the President and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to visit Pakistan at their earliest convenience.