Sirisena praises Pakistan's progress via CPEC; Sri Lanka deftly conducts its India & Pak policies
In what could send alarming signals to India, two of its neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka have decided to work together for the promotion of regional peace and security. The revelations were made at a meeting between Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and his Pakistani counterpart Mamnoon Hussain held in Pakistan on Saturday, March 24. Sirisena was in Pakistan as the chief guest at the Pakistan Day celebrations on March 23.
The two countries discussed bilateral issues, including trade relations, and also agreed to make the often struggling South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or Saarc a more useful platform.
Sirisena even said upon landing at Karachi airport that his country was pleased with the progress Pakistan was making because of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He thanked Pakistan for being a key ally of Sri Lanka.
Sirisena later met Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for one-to-one talks and discussed bilateral issues. Three agreements were also signed between the two countries in the presence of their respective heads of the government in matters of youth development and training of bureaucrats and diplomats.
Sri Lanka supports Pak holding Saarc summit
Sirisena also assured support to Pakistan over holding the Saarc summit on its soil, something India and a few other countries had decided to boycott in end 2016 in the wake of devastating terror attacks in an army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir.
Rajapaksa too favours Pakistan
Meanwhile, former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was voted out of power in 2015 but made himself relevant in recent times with the loyalist party winning the local elections decisively, said in an interview to an Indian media house that Sri Lanka always had close relations with India, China, as well as Pakistan and these ties, would continue in the days to come as well.
Rajapaksa said Pakistan is one of Sri Lanka's valued friends who stood by it both in times of war and peace. It shows that irrespective of the political party and colour, Sri Lanka's political leadership has a consistent approach towards Pakistan.
Colombo-Islamabad bonhomie in October 2017
In October last year too, Colombo had backed the prospect of Pakistan hosting the Saarc summit, making observers in India apprehensive that Sri Lanka's foreign policy was seeing a marked shift. Sri Lanka was one of the many South Asian countries in South Asia who had pulled out of the Saarc summit in Islamabad in 2016 the environment was not suitable for holding talks.
It though did not mention anything about Pakistan and its prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe had also said during a visit to New Delhi around the same time, he said it was because Sri Lanka had never faced any terrorist threat from Pakistan.
A year since then, Colombo's stance saw a visible shift and its support for Pakistan was revealed by Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua during her visit to the Sri Lankan capital.
Janjua said that Sirisena had promised support for holding the summit in Pakistan though it was not mentioned in their official communiqués. The Pakistani communiqué even said that Janjua had raised the issue of Kashmir with Sri Lanka though nothing was said about the latter's response to it.