Ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s much-awaited maiden visit to Sri Lanka on February 22, the Pakistani High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Major General (R) Saad Khattak said that the visit is will expand the regional countries’ current relationship into important new dimensions.
Speaking exclusively to The Correspondent, he said that Pakistan has a deep-rooted relationship with Sri Lanka, and the upcoming visit is very significant for expanding the bilateral relations beyond security and defence, and towards trade and cultural exchange. He also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan is “not an ordinary prime minister” for he is already popular within Sri Lanka because of his past cricketing career.
“As we have seen, our bilateral relations with Sri Lanka, with the war on LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) here and war on terror in Pakistan, have been security-centric and defence related. It was defence focused,” he said.
“Now our relationship is expanding, and a business delegation is also accompanying the Prime Minister,” the High Commissioner said. “Now we are looking at trade and economic relations.”
Talking of key expectations from the Prime Minister’s visit, the High Commissioner focused on increasing “people-to-people” contact between the two countries based on cultural and economic exchange.
“We are focusing on culture and tourism,” he said.
He added that the presence of Buddhist relics in Pakistan will also help deepen its relationship with Sri Lanka, where Buddhism is the most-practised religion.
“Pakistan, as you know, is an important reservoir of Buddhist heritage,” he said. “We have relics from Buddhist civilisation in Pakistan. We will highlight that, and based on that we will increase people-to-people contact. With the support from this, economic activities between both countries will see a rise.”
Imran Khan’s two-day visit to Sri Lanka is to commence from Tuesday. This will be his first visit to Sri Lanka after assuming office, on the invitation of his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will be the first Head of Government to visit Sri Lanka since Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office last year.
According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, the Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including members of the cabinet and senior officials.
Imran Khan’s programme includes meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He 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 and technology, defence and security, and culture and tourism. Besides bilateral matters, views will be exchanged on key regional and international issues.