Opening Remarks of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Bilateral Discussion with Prime Minister Imran Khan
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Imran Khan, let me extend a warm and cordial welcome to you and your delegation.
In fact, Your Excellency, you are the first foreign Head of Government to visit Sri Lanka after I assumed office as the the Prime Minster of Sri Lanka after the General Elections last year.
On my invitation, you have chosen to visit Sri Lanka with great friendship, despite great challenges, including COVID-19 risks.
Your visit symbolizes the deep affinity you and your government so dearly cherish towards the people of my country.
I admire your courage and the great leadership that is evident in crucial decisions you have taken at times of crises.
Even this visit is a clear demonstration of the leadership quality that I have seen decades ago when you led the Pakistan’s National Cricket Team against strong opponents.
I have observed your rise to the high office through the common people’s power and years of activism. That demonstrates your true love for the oppressed and the needy. Your people centric governance agenda goes hand in hand with my own government’s approach towards empowering the grassroots level communities and underprivileged.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your government all success at the forthcoming Senate election in Pakistan.
The ties between our two countries are closely linked by history, culture, religion, and our deep bilateral cooperation has become an all-weather friendship which has withstood the test of time.
Relations between our two nations have now expanded to many sectors. But we have great potential before us to further strengthen our bilateral cooperation.
I must thank Your Excellency for accompanying a strong business delegation with promising signs of investments and commercial partnerships. At a time of economic uncertainty, such private sector investments will greatly benefit both our economies.
I recall with much pleasure my most recent visit to Pakistan in 2017 and previously as President. Both visits were very productive and memorable for me. I was indeed touched by the hospitality and the warm reception given to me and my delegation by the friendly people of Pakistan.
The full text of the media release is given below;
I had the great privilege to welcome His Excellency Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and his high-level delegation this evening.
Prime Minister, you are not a stranger to the people of Sri Lanka. There are millions in this country who have admired your leadership on the cricket field as the Captain of the Pakistan National Team.
Your country continues to be a valuable bilateral partner, and Sri Lanka considers Pakistan a close and genuine friend. Our People hold Pakistan in very high esteem. Pakistan was a friend who stood by and helped Sri Lanka in times of great need. We are grateful for the steadfast support, particularly during my Presidency, when we had to fight a dangerous terrorist organization that was fully neutralized in May 2009.
During our bilateral discussions earlier this evening, Prime Minister Imran Khan and I agreed to work closely towards enhancing our bilateral cooperation in the economic sector and a number of other areas including trade, investment, science, technology, defense and education. We also agreed to pursue the opportunities presented within the framework of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement.
Our talks also focused on important regional and international issues as well as the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
We further agreed to work towards increasing activities in the tourism and aviation sectors. Sri Lanka is grateful to Pakistan for agreeing to open the pilgrimage corridors for Sri Lankans to visit ancient Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan.
Another important decision we made is to restart Parliamentary interaction through the Pakistan
– Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Groups.
Sri Lanka believes that political stability and regional peace will be the key to achieve sustainable development, economic growth and prosperity in South Asia. I admire Prime Minister Khan for his efforts in alleviating poverty and socio-economic disparity which play an important part of our development agenda.
We continue to work together to fight terrorism, religious fundamentalism and extremism.
In our talks, we agreed to continue with the current mechanism to curb illegal drug trafficking, arms smuggling and other illegal activities by sharing information through the relevant agencies.
We are also thankful to Pakistan for the partnership in the field of sports and assistance to enhance sports training facilities in the country.
Tomorrow, Prime Minister Imran Khan will preside over a business and investment forum with a strong multi-sector business delegation from Pakistan. Through direct interactions with their Sri Lankan counterparts, we expect to see a considerable increase in investments and business activities between our two countries.
While thanking Prime Minister Imran Khan and the delegation for undertaking this official visit to Sri Lanka, I am deeply grateful to you for honoring Sri Lanka with your visit here.