ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Sri Lanka from February 23rd to 24th on the invitation of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. This will be the Pakistani premier’s first visit to Sri Lanka after assuming office in 2018.
According to the Pakistan Foreign Office statement, the Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including members of the Cabinet and senior officials.
The Prime Minister’s program includes meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Imran Khan will also lead the delegation-level talks, covering all areas of cooperation between the two countries including trade and investment, health and education, agriculture and science & technology, defence and security, and culture and tourism.
Besides bilateral matters, views will be exchanged on key regional and international issues, said in the MOFA statement.
During the visit, the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association will be also announced to further promote parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.
The Prime Minister will also participate in a joint ‘Trade and Investment Conference’ aimed at promoting trade and investment between the two countries. Several MoUs to enhance bilateral cooperation will be signed during the visit.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have maintained close, cordial and mutually supportive relations since 1948. The two countries share the commonality of views on a wide range of international and regional issues. Both sides also work closely at the international and regional fora including the United Nations and SAARC.
PM Imran is the first Head of Government to visit Sri Lanka after the pandemic hit the world last year.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a tweet that he looked forward to welcoming Pakistani PM Imran Khan and his delegation in Sri Lanka next week. “This visit will further reinforce our bilateral relationship and pave way for joint ventures that mutually benefit both our nations,” he said.
Pakistani PM also tweeted stated that: “Thank you for your invitation Prime Minister @PresRajapaksa. Looking forward to my visit to Flag of Sri Lanka to further strengthen the friendship & cooperation between our two countries Flag of Pakistan-Flag of Sri Lanka.”
On the other hand, Sri Lanka cancelled the premier’s scheduled address to the country’s Parliament due to coronavirus restrictions.
Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had asked the government to cancel the address as he could not ensure full attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign Minister further added that the Colombo had added PM Imran Khan’s address at the request of Islamabad. The cancelled address was scheduled to take place on February 24 as part of the two-day trip of the prime minister.
Only two Pakistani leaders President Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — have addressed the Sri Lankan Parliament before.
It is also reported that the address cancelled due to fears of certain government officials that it might “sour” ties with India.