Islamabad, February 06, 2019 (PPI-OT): Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan was the Chief Guest at the Conference on “Enduring Friendship between Pakistan and Sri Lanka” here in Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA), Islamabad today. Federal Minister Mehboob Sultan said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have always been trusted-partners of each other with historical linkages dating back to the period of Gandhara civilization, from the first to seventh-century AD. The bilateral relations between the two countries, under the overarching umbrella of SAARC, help to promote a brighter and integrated future for all the people of South Asia.
Sri Lanka was the first country to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan, which became operational from June 12, 2005. 4,000 items can be imported to Pakistan from Sri Lanka. The Federal Minister said; Sri Lanka enjoys a key position in the Indian Ocean and has much to offer in terms of maritime cooperation and the maintenance of peace and security in the Indian Ocean region. Pakistan desires to enhance the maritime cooperation with Sri Lanka and seeks increased engagement between the armed forces of our two countries.
Mehboob Sultan added that with China rigorously working on the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan and pushing for increase assertiveness in the IOR, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stand to benefit as strong Chinese allies as guarantors of peace in the region’s waters. The Federal Minister said that Pakistan has signed a number of agreements with Sri Lanka and both are agreed on defeating terrorism in all its forms. The respective countries are facing an existential threat from hostile states. The Federal Minister said that the volume of trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka has increased in the last few years after the signing of the free trade agreement. Pakistan is the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka within the South Asian region.
As the business and trading communities of both countries complement each other’s strengths, the two governments stand by each other in various bilateral and international forums. Federal Minister said that Sri Lanka and Pakistan stressed the need for further increasing cooperation in health, education and other social sectors. The current dynamics of the international scenario resides much focus on the Asian states due to their strategic positions. Sri Lanka being the East-west sea corridor link and Pakistan having great attraction form the world economies due to CPEC has become the international trading hubs. The strong ties have established through sports diplomacy via cricket.
The 2009 attack on a Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore sent shockwaves across the world but Sri Lankan government and its people stood firmly with their Pakistani friends. Mehboob Sultan said that the Government of Sri Lanka has promoted a Blue Economy initiative. This can be considered a timely effort. As Sri Lanka having attractive tourist destination and Gwadar as an emerging economic hub. Another aspect of Sri Lanka-Pakistan economic relationship is the sharing of vital commercial intelligence inputs. We have done extensive studies on commercial intelligence and are prepared to share vital information with a friendly country such as Sri Lanka.
The Minister further added that the Government of China is investing in a new port near the capital Colombo and desires to establish a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka as part of its aspiring ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. Furthermore, Sri Lanka is manufacturing 75% electricity through the hydro source and both countries have the potential to work together in the energy sector for attaining mutual benefits. In the end Federal Minister said that the confidence-building measures need to be taken in diplomatic fields. Furthermore, the maritime order or in the Indian Ocean is commonly respected and best observed. The business communities of both nations need to step up for energies to comprehend all potential areas of business collaboration.
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