Colombo, February 23: The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had talks with the visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, told his Pakistani counterpart that Sri Lanka considers Pakistan “a close and genuine friend”.
“Our People hold Pakistan in very high esteem. Pakistan was a friend who stood by and helped Sri Lanka in times of great need. We are grateful for the steadfast support, particularly during my Presidency, when we had to fight a dangerous terrorist organization that was fully neutralized in May 2009.”
Rajapaksa went on to say: “Prime Minister, you are not a stranger to the people of Sri Lanka. There are millions in this country who have admired your leadership on the cricket field as the Captain of the Pakistan National Team.”
In a media statement issued after the talks Mahinda Rajapaksa said: “ During our bilateral discussions earlier this evening, Prime Minister Imran Khan and I agreed to work closely towards enhancing our bilateral cooperation in the economic sector and a number of other areas including trade, investment, science, technology, defense and education.”
“We also agreed to pursue the opportunities presented within the framework of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. Our talks also focused on important regional and international issues as well as the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.”
“We further agreed to work towards increasing activities in the tourism and aviation sectors. Sri Lanka is grateful to Pakistan for agreeing to open the pilgrimage corridors for Sri Lankans to visit ancient Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan.”
“Another important decision we made is to restart Parliamentary interaction through the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Groups.”
Regional Peace, Curbing Extremism
“Sri Lanka believes that political stability and regional peace will be the key to achieve sustainable development, economic growth and prosperity in South Asia. I admire Prime Minister Khan for his efforts in alleviating poverty and socio-economic disparity which play an important part of our development agenda. We continue to work together to fight terrorism, religious fundamentalism and extremism,” the Lankan PM said.
“In our talks, we agreed to continue with the current mechanism to curb illegal drug trafficking, arms smuggling and other illegal activities by sharing information through the relevant agencies.”
“We are also thankful to Pakistan for the partnership in the field of sports and assistance to enhance sports training facilities in the country.”
“Tomorrow (February 24), Prime Minister Imran Khan will preside over a business and investment forum with a strong multi-sector business delegation from Pakistan. Through direct interactions with their Sri Lankan counterparts, we expect to see a considerable increase in investments and business activities between our two countries.”
Mahinda Rajapaksa told Imran Khan: “I am deeply grateful to you for honoring Sri Lanka with your visit here.”