(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –President Maithripala Sirisena has extended his support to Pakistan to host the 20th SAARC Summit meeting there.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua addressing the media at an event to launch the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Alumni Association yesterday thanked the President for his support and added that Pakistan looked to further strengthen ties with Sri Lanka over a vast area.
The visit of the Foreign Secretary to Sri Lanka came a day after Pakistan scored an important victory in the UN by securing a seat at the UN Human Rights Council. Being one of the 15 countries to be elected to the Council, Janjua once again thanked Sri Lanka for its support and vote to secure such a victory.
Another crucial win for Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations came in the field of sports with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) deciding that the national team will play in Lahore on October 26. This will be their first visit to Pakistan since being subject to a terrorist attack in 2009.
“We are delighted that the Sri Lankan team is visiting Lahore. Pakistanis will cheer the Sri Lankans as much as their own team. There are no security issues to be worried about”, Janjua said.
The events this week thus mark a closer relationship between the two countries and a win for Pakistani diplomacy. Sri Lanka opted out of the 19th SAARC Summit citing security reasons last year, other SAARC countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan soon followed suit. Tensions between Pakistan and India had led to India calling for a boycott of the Summit which was later indefinitely postponed.
This year however, the newly appointed Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Janjua chose Sri Lanka as her first foreign visit since being appointed.
“This first visit is very important. It is evident from the fact that she selected Sri Lanka to be visited as her first country after taking assignment”, said the newly appointed Pakistani High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Major General (Rtd) Dr. Shahid Ahamed Hafmat speaking at the event.
Janjua said education was an important mechanism ‘for friendship and understanding which improves people to people relations’.
“No developing country can provide advanced educational facilities to all its citizens, therefore it is in their interest to use the educational facilities available in all friendly countries”, she said.
Pakistan has been offering student scholarships to Sri Lankans since 1976 and the areas of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, management and sciences have featured prominently in this.
During the visit of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Shariff in Janurary 2016, Pakistan offered to develop a ‘Knowledge Corridor’ for Sri Lankan students and military personnel through scholarship and training in university and institutes, said the Foreign Secretary.
The Alumni Association thus will be an important channel which will add to the scheme and build existing relations within the two countries.