Pakistan offers Sri Lanka $50m credit line for defence purchases

The two countries also agree to increase intelligence sharing and cooperation on security issues, including ‘terrorism’ and crime.

Pakistan's Imran Khan, left, during his two-day official visit to Sri Lanka [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan has extended a $50m line of credit for defence purchases to Sri Lanka, its foreign ministry says as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan concludes a landmark visit to the island nation.

An agreement was also made to increase intelligence sharing and cooperation on other security issues, including anti-terrorism and anti-crime operations.

Khan left Sri Lanka on Wednesday after a two-day visit that saw him hold talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, address a bilateral investment conference, and hold numerous other engagements.

“Both sides expressed satisfaction at the existing bilateral cooperation in the field of defence and noted that the elevation of staff-level talks to Defence Dialogue has further provided an opportunity to expand security sector relations,” said a joint statement.

Pakistan has provided significant military support to Sri Lanka in the past, notably in the closing stages of the country’s decades-long civil war against Tamil rebels, when Pakistani forces provided training and material support to the Sri Lankan military.

Trade ties

The other major focus of Khan’s visit, the first by a head of state to Colombo since the Rajapaksas assumed power last year, was enhancing trade and investment ties.

The Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference, held in Colombo on Wednesday, sought to connect businesses from the two countries to expand trade, as both struggle with a pandemic-related economic slowdown.

“The two sides stressed the importance of realising the goal of achieving US$ 1 billion bilateral trade target and also agreed to work towards broadening and deepening of Pakistan Sri Lank Free Trade Agreement,” said the statement.

In separate talks, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena discussed the possibility of linking Sri Lankan ports to the southern Pakistani port of Gwadar, a flagship project of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Pakistani statement said.

“Foreign Minister Qureshi … highlighted the mutual benefit that linking of Gwader Port in Pakistan to the Sri Lankan Ports could bring to both the countries. He invited Sri Lanka to benefit from Gwader Port for easy access to the Central Asian markets,” said the statement.

Cultural exchanges

The visit also focused on cultural exchanges and cooperation in the areas of sports and education.

Pakistan announced 100 new scholarships for Sri Lankan students who wished to study at medical and dental schools in Pakistan.

The potential for expanding religious tourism was also discussed, with the joint statement stressing the need to expand Sri Lankan tourism to Pakistan, which is home to a number of notable Buddhist archaeological sites.

“While realising the existence of great potential of religious tourism to Buddhist archaeological sites and noting the close ancient and cultural ties dating back to Gandhara civilisation, the two sides underscored the importance of enhancing cooperation in the field of tourism and highlighted the benefits of sharing expertise in the hospitality industry, including training and capacity building,” said the statement.

The two sides signed memorandums of understanding on strengthening cooperation in tourism, investment, and educational exchanges. Pakistan also announced a $330,000 grant for the promotion of sports in Sri Lanka.

A joint parliamentary body was also reconstituted, with greater cooperation between the two countries’ legislatures planned. Both sides also stressed the importance of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a regional body that has seen limited cooperation in recent years due to bilateral issues between India and Pakistan.

Source: Al Jazeera