Pak-Sri Lanka bilateral ties — a flashback of the last decade
Sri Lanka enjoys strong economic and social ties with its second-largest trading partner, Pakistan. Under the free trade agreement signed between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2005, President Asif Ali Zardari persuaded the Lankan government to increase trade and investment with Pakistan. The bilateral trade between the two countries increased in President Zardari’s regime.
Pakistan traded arms and ammunition with Sri Lanka in 2007, when it waged a war with the rebel Tamil Tigers. Along with China, Pakistan equally participated in the provision of arms to the Lankan army. Moreover, under Pakistan Technical Assistance Programme (PTAP), Sri Lankan students have been offered scholarships to study in Pakistan. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a regional intergovernmental organisation for South Asian countries.
Unfortunately, a catastrophe was witnessed when the Sri Lankan team was on its tour to Pakistan for the cricket match series. On March 3, 2009, the team was attacked in Lahore near the Gaddafi Stadium, when a bus carrying the players was charged upon. Four policemen and two bystanders were killed. A few Lankan players were also wounded in the ambush. As many as 12 assassins, were hiding with ammunition. As soon as the bus reached near Gaddafi Stadium, it was attacked. Grenades were thrown at the time of the assault. It was taken as a serious security threat.
Soon, it echoed that it was a planned invasion by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The threat led to a widespread reluctance in sending cricket teams to Pakistan after this incident.
This was a huge setback for Pakistan. Its relations with Sri Lanka were almost deteriorated. However, now after ten years, the Sri Lankan cricket team is at another juncture in Pakistan for test matches and T20 series. It is in a continuation of the bilateral talks of former Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Sirisena, who visited Pakistan on March 23, 2017, where he had shown interest in broadening the Pak-Lankan relationship and strengthening the ties by increasing trade, energy and economic cooperation. In the following year, Chief Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa set out for a three-day official tour to Sri Lanka on January 16, 2018. However, security is still a serious concern.
Upon the arrival of the Lankan players in Pakistan, they were given a warm welcome while the security alert remained high. They are to play three matches in Karachi and three in Lahore and all-out security was provided by the Pakistan army.
Sri Lanka has dropped sending ten most influential players of their team, which includes Malinga. This makes the team’s standard a bit lower on the edge, but it is mainly due to the security concerns of the country. Efforts are being made to flourish trade and social relationships among the two countries.
Sirisena encouraged Pakistan’s government to invigorate the bilateral ties in terms of economy, trade and social relationships. Official visits by Pakistan to Sri Lanka and vice versa could be a step in the right direction to strengthen their relationship.
China is showing a great deal of interest in the expansion of the economic and military sector of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has congratulated the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The newly elected Sri Lankan President has extended his warm wished and paid thanks to Pakistan’s government and its residents. Imran Khan tweeted that he is looking forward to working with President Rajapaksa and strengthening the ties to promote peace and prosperity. The Sri Lankan cricket team’s tour of Pakistan is a great step taken to strengthen the bond between the two countries. It is of utmost significance and would yield useful results in the long run. Strengthening ties with Sri Lanka might help uplift the economic and social standing of Pakistan.
Source : https://dailytimes.com.pk/518606/pak-sri-lanka-bilateral-ties-a-flashback-of-the-last-decade/
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.