Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday arrived in Sri Lanka on a two-day visit to the country on the invitation of the country’s prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
This is his first visit to Sri Lanka after assuming the office of prime minister.
On arrival in Colombo, the prime minister was received by his Sri Lankan counterpart and presented a guard of honour. He was later introduced to members of the Sri Lankan cabinet.
Prime Minister Imran and Rajapaksa then held a one-on-one meeting at Temple Trees, the official residence of the Sri Lankan prime minister.
It was followed by delegation-level talks between Imran and Rajapaksa, according to the former’s office.
In a tweet, the Sri Lankan prime minister said: “I warmly welcome Prime Minister Imran Khan of #Pakistan who is on his maiden visit to #SriLanka. I Look forward to interacting with the PM and his delegation on matters of mutual interest to both our nations.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also shared news of his arrival alongside the prime minister.
In a tweet, Qureshi said that Sri Lanka and Pakistan share a “close relationship” and “all areas of cooperation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be discussed and strengthened” during the visit.
According to Radio Pakistan, the premier will hold talks with the Sri Lankan leadership to further enhance bilateral cooperation in diverse sectors. The prime minister is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including members of the cabinet and senior officials.
During the visit, PM Imran will hold meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Sri Lankan counterpart to exchange views on key regional and international issues.
He will also lead delegation-level talks, covering all areas of cooperation between the two countries, including trade, investment, health, education, agriculture, science and technology, in addition to defence and culture tourism.
PM Imran will also participate in a joint ‘Trade and Investment Conference’ aimed at promoting trade and investment between the two countries. A number of agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation will be signed during the visit.
Earlier, the Foreign Office (FO) had said that the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association will also be announced to further promote parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.
However, the FO had not mentioned the speech to the Sri Lankan parliament.
The Sri Lankan government, while cancelling the event, had officially stated that this was being done because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, diplomatic sources and Sri Lankan media have said that it was done out of concerns that PM Imran could speak about the situation in occupied Kashmir, which could further damage Colombo’s already troubled relations with New Delhi.
Another speculation doing the rounds is that the Sri Lankan government is worried that PM Imran in his speech could make a reference to the plight of Sri Lankan Muslims, who have been facing abuses and discrimination in the Buddhist-dominated country.
FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri at the weekly media briefing had said that the elements of the visit would be decided according to “the Covid-19-related health and safety protocols”.