His Excellency Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan who visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena concluded his two-day official visit on Wednesday, 6th January 2016. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe received the visiting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the official delegation together with several Cabinet Ministers and other dignitaries at the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The official welcome ceremony for the visiting Prime Minister, including a Guard of Honour and Gun Salute was held at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on 5th January, 2016. President Maithripala Sirisena accompanied by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and several Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials held Official bilateral talks with the visiting delegation. In honour of the visiting Prime Minister, President Maithripala Sirisena hosted a State Banquet. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe hosted a lunch for the visiting Prime Minister at Temple Trees.
The official bilateral discussions between the two leaders were marked by true friendship, mutual respect, and abiding goodwill. President Maithripala Sirisena noted that the present visit of Prime Minister Sharif takes place at a time when both countries are committed to elevating the relationship to a significantly higher level. He said that the ties between two countries are closely linked to history, culture, religion, and the deep enduring bilateral cooperation has blossomed into an all-encompassing relationship which has withstood the test of time. While reiterating the commitment of the new government to further strengthen the bilateral relations, he thanked the government, and people of Pakistan for the constant and unconditional support extended by Pakistan to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. President Sirisena also appreciated the development assistance that Sri Lanka has received from Pakistan. Pakistan’s immense support and partnership at international fora particularly in the UN Human Rights Council was also noted and appreciated. He said that the government is committed to human rights, reconciliation, peace and harmony among communities, which are essential ingredients to achieve durable peace, security, sustainable development and prosperity for all.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif conveyed the warm greetings and good wishes of the people of Pakistan to the President, Government, and People of Sri Lanka. He extended profound gratitude for the warm welcome and hospitality he and his delegation received from the time of his arrival in Sri Lanka. The visiting Prime Minister also congratulated President Maithripala Sirisena for completing one year in office and his government’s achievements in strengthening democracy, rule of law and ensuring that the dividend of peace is enjoyed by all the communities in Sri Lanka. He also thanked Sri Lanka for extending support in their fight against terrorism.
Both leaders extensively reviewed the political, economic, cultural, education, defence, tourism, shipping, and other multifaceted areas of engagement and arrived at several important decisions to reinvigorate the bilateral links. Both leaders agreed that the current level of trade between the two countries does not reflect the actual potential and agreed to work together diligently towards reaching the target of US $ 1 billion trade within the next two to three years. In this regard, the two parties agreed to establish a Joint Working Group with a time frame of six months to identify issues, challenges and strategies to exploit the existing potential in this important area of cooperation.
The visiting delegation was briefed on the ambitious development initiatives planned by the government, including the setting up of Economic, Industrial, and Technical Development Zones in different parts of the Island, and the Megapolis development plan. Pakistan investors were invited to explore investment opportunities in these mega projects in Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to invest in Sri Lanka in the fields of Sugar, Cement, Pharmaceutical, Automobiles, and Infrastructure development. He also briefed the ongoing mega projects in Pakistan to address a severe power shortage and welcomed Sri Lanka’s expertise in this area.
President Maithripala Sirisena deeply valued the enduring aspects of Sri Lanka – Pakistan Defence-related cooperation. He thanked Pakistan for the military training being provided in Pakistan for the Sri Lankan military and police officers in several defense related fields.
During the discussions, while emphasizing the importance of education, skills development, science and technology the two sides agreed to expand and strengthen cooperation that exists between the two countries.
The two leaders acknowledged that culture, based on shared historical and civilizational links as an enduring aspect of the close relationship. Buddhism and Islam have played a pivotal role over several millennia in bringing the two countries together. President Maitripala Sirisena welcomed the offer of Pakistan to send sacred Buddhist Relics from the ancient Gandhara era for veneration by Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
Both leaders agreed that people to people bonds and friendship that exist between the people of the two countries is an important aspect of the partnership and agreed to expand the cultural exchange programs, and to broaden cooperation in the fields of tourism and sports. As a gesture of goodwill of the people of Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena announced the gifting of a female elephant to Pakistan.
Signifying the ongoing momentum of the bilateral engagement between the two countries, the two leaders witnessed the signing of eight (08) bilateral instruments in the fields of Health, Science & Technology, Trade, Statistics, Gem & Jewellery, Money Laundering & Terrorism Financing, and Culture.
In addition, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe witnessed the signing of eight (08) Memoranda of Understanding on promotion of Trade and Investment and the establishment of Joint Ventures in the areas of Fishing, Shipping, Power Generation, Cement etc., among the private establishments of the two countries.
(The two Prime Ministers were also present for the soft launching of Pakistan Single Country Exhibition which will be held from 15-17 January, 2016 at the BMICH).
At the invitation of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif delivered a special lecture on “Sri Lanka-Pakistan Relations” at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Madam Begum Kalsoom Sharif visited Kandy on 6th January 2016 and paid homage to the Sacred Tooth Relics. He also visited the Jinnah Centre in Kandy and planted a native tree, “Karanda” (Pongamia pinnata), at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.
During the visit, members of the Sri Lanka- Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group, led by Speaker Hon. Karu Jayasuriya, and several other dignitaries called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was accompanied by Hon. Engr. Khurram Dastagir Khan, Minister of Commerce , Hon. Rana Tanveer Hussain, Minister for Defence Production, Hon. Mr. Tariq Fatemi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs , Lt. Gen. (R) Nasser Khan Janjua, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security, Maj. Gen. (R) Syed Shakeel Hussain, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Mr. Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, Secretary Commerce and senior official from several government institutions.
Hon. Kabir Hashim, Minister of Public Enterprises Development was the Minister in Attendance.