By Shumaila Andleeb
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jan 5 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Srisena Tuesday agreed on reinvigorating ties between the two countries with focus on enhanced cooperation in trade, science and technology, defence production and tourism.
The two leaders in an interaction with media after leading the delegation-level talk and witnessing the signing of bilateral accords here at the President’s Secretariat, stressed the need for fully exploiting their friendship for the development and prosperity of their peoples.
Prime Minister Sharif mentioned the commonalities of views shared during the delegation-level talks as the two sides agreed on pursuing multi-faceted interaction.
The talks were held in a warm friendly and cordial atmosphere and were marked by full trust and complete understanding.
He said Sri Lanka had been a strong and steadfast friend of Pakistan that had stood by it in difficult moments and added “we remain eternally grateful to the people and government of this beautiful island State.”
He said Sri Lanka enjoys exceptional position for being the first country with which Pakistan entered into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
He said the present volume of bilateral trade did not reflect the true potential existing between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and called for steps to achieve the target of one billion dollar by the end of 2016.
Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s offer to setup cement and sugar plants in Sri Lanka, on mutually agreed terms, for the long-term benefit of Sri Lankan economy.
The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the meeting of the Second Working Group and the Sixth Technical Level Meeting of Pakistan Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission, being held in Colombo.
He appreciated the participation of Sri Lankan Navy in carrying out annual exercises with Pakistan Navy.
Sharif expressed confidence that the eight bilateral accords signed today would go a long way in bringing prosperity to the country.
President Maithripala thanked the government of Pakistan for helping Sri Lanka root out terrorism from its soil, and added that the Sri Lankan government and nation were thankful to Pakistan for this assistance.
He appreciated Pakistan’s cooperation in carrying out several development projects in Sri Lanka.
He thanked Prime Minister Sharif for visiting his country and said that he would visit Pakistan to attend next SAARC Summit to be held in Islamabad.
Earlier, the two leaders held a meeting and reviewed the whole gamut of bilateral relations.
An official privy to the meeting told APP that President Maithripala appreciated Prime Minister Sharif for making solid efforts for the development of country.
President Maithripala termed Nawaz Sharif a “true leader” and a “real pride of nation” and said with his political acumen and sagacity, Pakistan had attained several important milestones including restoration of peace and stability of economy.
Sharif said Pakistan was happy that its assistance for ending militancy in Sri Lanka had yielded fruitful results and added that the help was in fact for the cause of peace.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with Sri Lanka, which he said, had grown stronger over the last six decades.
He recalled the visit of President Maithripala to Pakistan in April last year terming it as positive and encouraging, during which a number of Agreements were signed between the two countries.
He pointed the need for resolution of tariff issues by Sri Lankan authorities which he said would facilitate the Pakistani businessmen in maintaining export of their products to Sri Lanka on a long term basis.
The Prime Minister apprised the Sri Lankan President of the improved security situation in Pakistan in the wake of operation Zarb-e-Azb. He said Pakistan had zero tolerance for militancy and the whole nation was united against this scourge.
He said Pakistan was an attractive country for tourism and mentioned that being home to the Buddhist Civilization and heritage, the country offered great potential for promoting religious tourism, particularly to Sri Lanka.
The two sides also discussed the potential of cooperation in defence production.
Both leaders agreed that SAARC was an important vehicle for regional cooperation and for promoting peace, stability and progress. They expressed satisfaction that Pakistan and Sri Lanka had been closely coordinating on matters discussed under the ambit of this important regional organization.
Prime Minister Sharif and President Maithripala also led their delegations for talks on issues of bilateral interest. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also joined the delegation-level talks.
The Pakistan side was represented by Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastagir Khan, Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and National Security Advisor Lt Gen (retd) Nasir Janjua.