President concludes state visit to Pakistan, pledges to strengthen relations

Wednesday, 8 April 2015 00:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday concluded his three-day state visit to Pakistan pledging to strengthen bilateral relations between both nations. The Sri Lankan President paid a state visit to Pakistan from 5 to 7 April at the invitation of Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This was President Sirisena’s first visit to Pakistan since assuming office in January this year. The Sri Lankan President, who arrived in Islamabad on Sunday, met with Pakistani President Manmoon Hussein on Monday (6 April) at Aiwan-e-Sadr, the official residence of Pakistan’s President, for bilateral discussions. President Sirisena and President Hussain held a one-on-one meeting before the commencement of bilateral discussions between the two sides. Both Presidents presided over the bilateral discussions between their respective delegations. During the meeting, the two leaders pledged to consolidate existing economic and trade relations between Sri Lanka and Pakistan and the Pakistani President said bilateral relations would be carried forward more vigorously with the new Government of Sri Lanka. President Hussain said Pakistan and Sri Lanka should continue making joint efforts for turning the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) into a model regional organisation of mutual cooperation and progress. President Sirisena said the new Sri Lankan Government was marching forward with a new economic program. He extended his gratitude to the Pakistani President for the provision of facilities to Sri Lanka through bilateral agreements. The two leaders also discussed on the implementation of mutual exchange and training programs in a novel format focusing attention on strengthening scholarships exchange programs in training. They also discussed the commencement of a research and technology program for the new generation. The Sri Lankan President also focused on the implementation of cultural exchange programs as there was a similarity between the cultures of the two countries. He added that an excellent friendship could be established in the field of sports as well. The Pakistan President expressed regrets over the attack on Sri Lankan cricket players in Lahore in 2009 and said his country still grieves over the incident. The Sri Lankan leader thanked the Pakistan President for the assistance provided in eliminating terrorism to establish peace in Sri Lanka. At the end of the bilateral discussions, the Pakistani President hosted a banquet for the visiting Sri Lankan President and his delegation. After the formal welcoming ceremony both the leaders held a one-on-one meeting which was followed by delegation level talks discussing a range of subjects. Welcoming President Sirisena on his first visit to Pakistan, the Prime Minister said Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with Sri Lanka which are most cordial and friendly. “There is immense goodwill in Pakistan for Sri Lanka which should permit us to develop even more close and cooperative relations in all fields including political, economic and defence,” he said. The Prime Minister noted that the present volume of trade ($ 438 million) between the two countries did not reflect the true potential and both sides should make efforts to take bilateral trade to $ 1 billion within the next few years. He said that there was a need to increase visits between the two countries including those by parliamentary delegations. The Prime Minister expressed confidence that Joint Working Groups on trade, investment, automotive sector and customs cooperation would enhance economic cooperation between the two countries. President Sirisena noted that Pakistan and Sri Lanka had ancient links between their peoples and the two countries needed to enhance tourism and personal contact between the,. He expressed his gratitude to Pakistan for extending assistance to the country under various assistance programs and invited the Prime Minister to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at his convenience. Following bilateral discussions, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Sharif presided over the signing ceremony of six Memorandums of Understanding in the fields of sports, shipping, tourism, economic development, anti-narcotics, defence and disaster management. The Sri Lankan President left Islamabad yesterday for Karachi, from where he will return to Colombo.