Sept 03, Colombo: Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Pakistan's Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Prof. Ahsan Iqbal today discussed deepening bilateral ties in trade, economy and political relations, when the latter met the President at the Temple Trees on Tuesday (03).
Conveying the greetings from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to the leadership and the people of Sri Lanka, Minister Iqbal thanked the President for the prompt help and support extended during the dengue outbreak in Punjab province during 2011. He said the gesture created a lot of good will among the Pakistani people towards Sri Lanka.
Briefing the President on the initiatives taken by the Pakistan Muslim League (N) Government, Prof. Iqbal said that despite the gravity of issues, the new Government was committed to resolving the menace of terrorism and improving overall security situation not only within Pakistan but also in the region.
Platforms should be created at national and regional level to promote interfaith and communal harmony to mitigate the negative influences, he told the Sri Lankan President.
Welcoming the Pakistani Minister to Sri Lanka, the President said that he was looking forward to the visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to Sri Lanka in November for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting CHOGM 2013.
The Sri Lankan President noted that bilateral relations between the two countries have stood test of time and strength of this relationship emanated from the people of the two countries.
The President and the Minister spoke about increasing trade between the two countries so that the political good will between the two nations can be reflected more in the economic relationship as well.
Conveying the desire of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to deepen economic ties with Sri Lanka, the Minister said that the two sides need to work closely to take the bilateral trade from US$ 400 million to over US$ I billion mark.
The Joint Economic Commission may be convened at the earliest in order to propose ways and means to enhance and diversify trade and address the issues affecting economic and commercial relations, the Minister noted.
The Pakistani Minister also highlighted the significance of sporting ties in bringing the people of South Asia together.
On his request the Sri Lankan President agreed to revive cricket ties with Pakistan and said that a team will be sent to play in Pakistan shortly and Sri Lanka will help in breaking the barrier for people of Pakistan.
Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Karunatilaka Amunugama and Director General, South Asia, of the Ministry of External Affairs Dharshana Perera also joined the discussion.
Earlier today, Prof. Iqbal, also met the Sri Lankan Minister for Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa.
Taking an overview of the economic and trade relations between the two countries, the ministers agreed to closely work together to achieve the trade target of US$ 1 billion. Furthermore, emphasizing the need to enhance the commercial links, it was agreed that new avenues will be explored to diversify trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The two Ministers also decided to establish hotlines at the ministerial level for an urgent response to identify and eliminate any issue impeding the trade relations.
Minister Rajapaksa, accepting the invitation extended by Minister Iqbal said that he looks forward to visiting Pakistan at a mutually convenient date.
During his stay in Colombo, the Minister will visit the High Commission of Pakistan in Colombo, to interact with the representatives of the Pakistani community based in Sri Lanka.
The Minister is also expected to visit the Norochchlai Power Plant in Puttalam District of Sri Lanka, where he will be briefed in detail on the operations and working of a coal powered energy generation plant.
The Pakistani delegation also included Deputy High Commissioner in Colombo Ms. Amna Baloch and the High Commission's Third Secretary Mr. Bilal Akram Shah.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)