Colombo, December 1 (newsin.asia): The Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, will be meeting the Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena here on Monday, a Presidential Secretariat official said.
Qureshi, the first Pakistani dignitary to call on President Gotabaya after his sweeping victory in the November 16 Presidential election, is likely to extend an invitation to Gotabaya to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.
He would also discuss matters of bilateral and regional issues. However, in political circles, the visit is being seen as a bid to match India’s vigorous diplomacy following Gotabaya’s stunning victory with a margin of 1.3 million votes.
Immediately after the results, India sent its Foreign Minister S.Jaishankar to Colombo for a meeting with the new President and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Jaishankar pledged India’s support to the Gotabaya Administration and invited him to visit New Delhi on November 29 to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The visit took place as envisaged. The entire gamut of issues, both bilateral and regional, was discussed in a free and frank manner to the satisfaction of both sides.
In the media briefing which took place after the talks at Hyderabad House, Gotabaya and Modi spoke about the talks, but there was no joint statement.
In his statement, Modi said that there was agreement on cooperation to fight “cross border terrorism” and Jehadi terrorism and announced that India is going to give Sri Lanka US$ 50 million to tone up its intelligence gathering machinery.
Gotabaya gratefully accepted the offer and also the US$ 500 million offered for infrastructure and economic development.
Modi’s reference to “cross border terrorism” clearly had a Pakistani angle as India has for long been making the charge that Pakistan is the source of cross border terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India.
However, the term could also include Jehadi terrorism which has international connections. Sri Lanka was a victim of Jehadi terrorism on April 21 this year, which took away nearly 300 lives.
According to political circles, the visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister will attempt to disabuse the Sri Lankan leadership of any belief that might be about Pakistan’s being a sponsor of cross border terrorism.
Pakistan may also be worried that the grand reception given in India to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, coupled with the impressive aid package that India had offered, might result in Colombo’s tilting too much towards New Delhi at the expense of Islamabad.
Foreign Minister Qureshi might remind the Lankan leaders that Pakistan has been among a small number countries which had stood by Sri Lanka during the war against Tamil separatism. It had supplied weapons while others did not. Pakistan has also given unconditional support to Sri Lanka when the latter was being pilloried in the UN Human Rights Council for alleged “war crimes” and other human rights violations during and after the war.
Qureshi might also take the opportunity to seek an increase in trade and investment between the two countries which have languished despite the existence of a Free Trade Agreement operationalized way back in 2005.