President Maithripala Sirisena returned to Sri Lanka last eveneing (April 7), after a successful State visit to Pakistan, during which the two countries pledged to strengthen bilateral relations and signed several agreements and MoUs to enhance cooperation.
At the invitation of President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, President Maithripala Sirisena paid a State visit to Pakistan from 5th to 7th April 2015. This is the first visit by President Sirisena to Pakistan since his election in January, 2015.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received President Maithripala Sirisena on arrival at the Noor Khan Air base, Chaklala, Islamabad. The reception on arrival included a 21-Gun Salute.
On Monday 6th April, President Sirisena was accorded a ceremonial welcome including a Guard of Honour at the Prime Minister's House.
The two leaders held bilateral talks which were followed by a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Sri Lankan President also held talks with President Mamnoon Husain and was hosted to a State Banquet. As a symbol to mark the State visit, the President Sirisena was accorded the honour of planting a sapling at the Shakarparian plantation. He also visited the Taxila Museum - which houses a relic of the Buddha as well as ancient Gandhara heritage artifacts.
The Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Minister of Commerce Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan and Minister of Defence, Khawaja Muhammad Asif called on President Sirisena at the hotel.
The Pakistani leadership was briefed on some of the recent developments in Sri Lanka, particularly on the progress of the 100-day Programme which commits Sri Lanka on a path to strengthen democracy, independence of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law and ensuring that all communities in Sri Lanka enjoy the dividend of peace which has dawned in the country.
During the wide-ranging discussions between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the two leaders reviewed the political, economic, cultural, education, consular, legal, defence and other spheres of engagement which at present straddle the bilateral relationship. They also shared views on ways and means of further strengthening the robust relations between the two countries. President Sirisena conveyed the cordial greetings and good wishes of the people of Sri Lanka to the friendly people of Pakistan.
The discussions were marked by a spirit of friendship, mutual respect and understanding. The leaders appreciated the tremendous value of the wide-ranging partnership shared by the two countries. President Sirisena emphasized the need to build upon the longstanding connections between the two peoples which span thousands of years and which has progressively achieved a unique robustness in the post-independence era emerging from the time of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. They agreed on the immense value of bilateral interaction through high level visits as well as Ministerial and officials level engagement. The two leaders also discussed matters of mutual interest in regionally and internationally including SAARC. The need for new initiatives in technological cooperation in the region was emphasized in order to achieve greater competiveness in the global arena. The two leaders valued the ongoing process of coordinating positions at International bodies such as the United Nations including the UNHRC and supporting each other's candidatures.
The Sri Lankan President observed that at critical moments in the post-Independence histories, the two countries have stood by each other in solidarity. In this regard, he conveyed to the Pakistani leadership deep appreciation for the consistent support extended by Pakistan during the conflict in Sri Lanka and the fight against terrorism which he said reflected the abiding friendship between the two countries.
President Sirisena also conveyed gratitude for the facilities and training provided to Sri Lankan Armed Forces personnel as well as the continuing support in the post-conflict development phase such as the grant of US$ 1 million for IDP housing which supports the resettlement programme in Sri Lanka.
On the economic front, the two leaders concurred that the full economic potential in the economic relationship is yet to be fully realized. It was agreed to progress with renewed efforts to further enhance economic cooperation within the existing mechanisms of the Joint Economic Commission and the Working Groups on Trade in Goods, Investment , Auto sector and Customs cooperation.
President Sirisena invited Pakistan investments to Sri Lanka particularly in the sectors of Pharmaceuticals and Medical devices, Cement, Sugar, IT and Tourism. As an immediate step, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to send an Investment team to explore opportunities in the Pharmaceuticals, Cement and Sugar sectors. President Sirisena thanked Pakistan for the US $ 200 million credit-line offered to Sri Lanka. Official's level engagement was tasked to make further progress and finalize arrangements for disbursements.
The high level of cooperation in the field of Education was noted by the two leaders. President Sirisena conveyed appreciation for the large number of scholarships and placements provided for MBBS, Engineering, Dental Science and Diplomacy programmes under the Pakistan Technical Assistance and other programmes. Pakistani students are recipients of Presidential Scholarship from Sri Lanka.
The Pakistan Prime Minister also offered the expertise and services of the National Data Base and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan mainly to revise the Identity card system in Sri Lanka.
Referring to the high frequency of air connectivity existing between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, President Sirisena invited the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to recommence flights to Sri Lanka to further bolster aviation links between the two countries. Such a measure, he said, would give an impetus to enhance trade and economic relations, tourism and people-to-people contact.
Prime Minister Sharif observed that there is a rich ancient Buddhist heritage which exists in Pakistan and referred to its immense value to develop tourism between the two countries. Having agreed that Cultural cooperation is an area which has greater potential for engagement, President Sirisena proposed the establishment of a joint research and awareness programme which would generate wider appreciation of the ancient connections, bolster tourism and intensify people to people contact.
The two leaders witnessed the signature of six instruments, which provide an additional framework to intensify cooperation in the fields of disaster management, sports, shipping, cooperation between the atomic energy agencies, anti-narcotics and academic cooperation between the National Defence University and the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS).
The visit of President Sirisena has generated a new momentum towards charting a more dynamic course in the relations between two countries. He extended an invitation to the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka with a view to continuing the bilateral dialogue and further cement the strong friendship shared by the two countries.
The President was accompanied by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Disaster Management Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, Foreign Secretary Mrs. Chitranganee Wagiswara, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Islamabad Air Chief Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody, Commander of the Army Lt. Gen. A.W.J. Crishanthe De Silva, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Director General Mr. M.M. Zuhair PC, and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the High Commission in Islamabad.