COLOMBO: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena on Wednesday underscored the need to expand Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to realize the full potential of bilateral trade.
In a meeting held in Colombo, the two Foreign Ministers reviewed the whole gamut of bilateral relations and agreed to work closely to further strengthen ties and enhance cooperation in diverse fields.
Qureshi stressed the importance Pakistan attached to its relations with Sri Lanka in further strengthening the multifaceted cooperation. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka was reflective of the priority accorded to this relationship.
Underscoring the need to enhance bilateral trade and investment, Foreign Minister Qureshi expressed satisfaction at the progress made during the recently held meetings of the 12th Joint Economic Commission (JEC) and 7th Commerce Secretary Level talks.
He welcomed the convening of the “Trade and Investment Conference” jointly chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. In the context of economic connectivity, Foreign Minister Qureshi highlighted that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), could be a game changer for the entire region.
The Foreign Minister also highlighted the mutual benefit that linking of Gwadar Port in Pakistan to the Sri Lankan Ports could bring to both the countries. He invited Sri Lanka to benefit from Gwadar Port for an easy access to the Central Asian markets. Foreign Minister Qureshi, noting the close traditional and cultural ties between the two countries, proposed on promoting religious tourism.
He welcomed the reconstitution of Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group in Sri Lankan Parliament and underscored the importance of regular parliamentary exchanges to reinforce bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.
Foreign Minister Qureshi stated that Pakistan was a key partner of Sri Lanka in human resource development. In this regard, he highlighted the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Higher Education Cooperation Programme (PSLHECP). He also appreciated the Sri Lankan cricket team’s visit that led to the return of international cricket to Pakistan.
Qureshi shared Pakistan’s perspective on major issues of regional and international importance. The two Foreign Ministers re-affirmed the commitment for close cooperation at the regional and international fora, including the UN and SAARC.–APP