Colombo, March 29 (newsin.asia): The Pakistani High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Dr. Shahid Ahmad Hashmat, on Thursday stressed the need to pool in efforts to strengthen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
“SAARC is needed for political and economic cooperation in South Asia,” the envoy said while speaking to a distinguished gathering on the occasion of the 78 th.National Day of Pakistan.
It is significant that the High Commissioner should mention SAARC in his speech and give it primacy. Pakistan is very keen that it should hold the 19 th.SAARC summit in Islamabad.
The 19 th.summit was to be held in Islamabad in November 2016, but it had to be postponed indefinitely because India boycotted it on the grounds that Pakistan-based militants attacked Indian military bases in Pathankot and Uri earlier that year.
Following India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan,Sri Lanka and Maldives also boycotted it. However, Nepal, being in the chair, wanted the Summit to proceed.
Since the SAARC summit is generally held once in about 18 months, it is due in the middle of this year. And Pakistan is vigorously campaigning for support to hold the summit in Islamabad.
When Tehmina Janjua became Pakistan Foreign Secretary in 2017, Sri Lanka was the first country she visited. She used her trip to extract an assurance from Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisana that he would support the holding of the summit in Islamabad.
When President Sirisena visited Islamabad recently, the Pakistani Premier, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, urged Sirisena to use his clout to get the summit held in Islamabad.
Further in his speech at the National Day function, High Commissioner Dr.Hashmat said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been “all weather friends” and that the relations have been based on “mutual respect and not mutual interest.”
In his address, the chief guest, the Sri Lankan Minister of Primary Industries Daya Gamage, said Sri Lanka’s relations with Pakistan go back to the Gandhara era. In the years since independence, they have been strengthened by Pakistan’s coming to Sri Lanka’s aid in times of need such as natural disasters.
Gamage spoke of possibilities of improving trade and investment in the two countries using the Free Trade Agreement which became operational in 2005. He suggested several areas in which Pakistan could invest in Sri Lanka. Among them are pharmaceuticals, cement, construction, electrical goods and agriculture. Pakistan, on its part, is keen on forging ties in education to leverage facilities available in the two countries.
Pakistan celebrates Marsh 23 as its National Day as it was on that date in 1940, that the Muslim League, the premier party of Muslims in pre-partition India, passed the Lahore Resolution demanding a separate country called Pakistan for the Muslims of India.
The High Commissioner said that this year, the National Day had to be held on March 29, because he was away in Islamabad in connection with the visit of the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.
(The featured image at the top shows the Pakistani envoy Dr.Hahmat meeting the Sri Lankan President Maitrhipala Sirisena)