Pak, Sri Lanka agrees to make SAARC more vibrant to promote regional connectivity

FMs agree to enhance bilateral cooperation for human resources, regional security, and war against terrorism

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Pakistan and Sri Lanka have emphasized on making South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) more vibrant to promote regional connectivity and reiterated the resolve for mutual cooperation at all international and regional forums.

 

The understanding reached at a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Sri Lankan Counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena in Colombo on Wednesday.

 

Dinesh Gunawardena warmly received the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.

 

During the meeting, they exchanged views on bilateral relations, promoting cooperation in various sectors, and other matters of regional and international importance.

 

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan indicates that Pakistan is eager to expand bilateral relations with Sri Lanka.

 

Pakistan Foreign Minister stressed the need for expanding Free Trade Agreement to enhance bilateral trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a flagship programme of Belt and Road Initiative of China and the entire region can benefit from this project for the promotion of economic activities.

 

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said enhancing connectivity between Gwadar Port and Sri Lankan ports will help provide easy access to business centers of Central Asian states. He also called for promoting religious tourism, keeping in view the cultural and traditional ties between the two countries.

 

Both the foreign ministers expressed the resolve to continue common efforts for the promotion of bilateral cooperation in the sectors of trade, investment, health, education, agriculture, science and technology and other fields of mutual interest.

 

They agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation for the development of human resources, regional security and war against terrorism.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka have agreed on a broad consensus on ways and means to further strengthen cooperation in diverse fields and promote high-level and delegation-level exchanges.

 

A Joint Communiqué issued by the two Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the conclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day official visit to Sri Lanka said:At the invitation of the Prime Minister of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister of Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan paid a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka on 23-24 February 2021.Prime Minister Imran Khan was accompanied by a high-level delegation, comprising Federal Ministers and senior Government officials. This was the first visit by the Prime Minister of Pakistan to Sri Lanka since the formation of the new governments in both countries, clearly reflecting the warmth and goodwill between the governments and peoples of the two countries. Prime Minister Imran Khan received a warm ceremonial welcome from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers of Sri Lanka. During the visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan held delegation-level meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka. Both sides comprehensively reviewed the multifaceted bilateral relationship in diverse fields of cooperation.The talks were held in a warm and cordial atmosphere, marked by mutual trust and respect. The visit afforded a timely opportunity to both sides to further build upon their close and regular consultations, particularly in the areas 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 broad consensus on ways and means to further strengthen cooperation in a comprehensive manner and agreed to hold frequent meetings; promote high-level and delegation-level exchanges; and enhance the process of consultations, cooperation and coordination between their respective institutions. Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated Pakistan’s support for the socio-economic development of Sri Lanka in line with the vision of a “peaceful neighborhood”.The two sides reviewed the extensive engagement that exists between the two countries in promoting cultural linkages, human resource development, and capacity building in diverse areas as well as educational and technical cooperation. The Pakistan side announced 100 scholarships in the field of medicines (MBBS and BDS) as part of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Higher Education Cooperation Programme (PSLHECP). The Sri Lankan side appreciated the cooperation being extended by Pakistan in human resource development and capacity building. While realizing the existence of great potential of religious tourism to Buddhist archaeological sites and noting the close ancient and cultural ties dating back to Gandhara civilization, the two sides underscored the importance of enhancing cooperation in the field of tourism and highlighted the benefits of sharing expertise in the hospitality industry, including training and capacity building. The Pakistan side announced its initiative of establishing the Asian Civilization and Culture Centre at the University of Peradeniya, Kandy. Both sides recognized the importance of enhancing air connectivity to promote people-to-people contact, tourism, trade and culture. In order to explore new avenues for enhancing bilateral trade and investment between the two countries, a high-level Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference was held on 24 February 2021. The Conference provided an opportunity for effective and meaningful engagement between the business communities of the two countries. At the conference, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka sides reiterated the importance of strengthening economic relations in key areas of mutual interest and diversifying trade and investment between the two countries. The two sides stressed the importance of realizing the goal of achieving US$ 1 billion bilateral trade target and also agreed to work towards broadening and deepening of Pakistan Sri Lank Free Trade Agreement.

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