Three day visit of Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif of Sri Lanka has borne fruit. Both the countries signed eight agreements to strengthen bilateral ties. According to one key agreement Sri Lanka would purchase eight JF-17 jet fighters from Pakistan. It’s a good omen that despite the Indian efforts to isolate Pakistan in the region Pakistan has successfully converted strong relations with Sri Lanka into a commercially beneficial one. Sri Lanka’s decision to go ahead with the purchase of the JF-17s is a significant one for Pakistan since we had been looking to market the locally manufactured military aircraft. This step would pave the way for other possibilities of Pakistan becoming an exporter of military hardware.
Nawaz’s visit can be considered quite a success because eight other agreements inked to further regional cooperation in the field of health and education, science and technology. Both the countries were of the view to increase bilateral trade to over $1 billion. Premier also extended invitation to the Sri Lankan businessmen to visit Pakistan and explore the new business and investment opportunities in the country.
The agreements in Sri Lanka after the PM’s visit also signify a different method to pursue regional cooperation. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are now looking to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which would include service provision. A currency swap agreement is also under consideration. It is probably best to wait for such an agreement to be actually inked before celebrating. Because talks related to this deal are going on from last two decades.
But purchase of JF-17 jet remained the highlight of the visit which was given special coverage in the Indian media as well.
It’s a good omen that Pakistan is strengthening ties with other South Asian countries.