Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Sri Lanka to boost trade ties, regional connectivity

Islamabad: Pakistan and Sri Lanka are expected to sign multiple agreements to strengthen economic cooperation and improve connectivity between the two countries during the Pakistani premier’s upcoming visit.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Sri Lanka from February 23 to 24 on the invitation of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, according to Pakistan Foreign Office statement. This will be the Pakistani premier’s first visit to Sri Lanka after assuming office in 2018.

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During the two-day visit, PM Imran Khan will hold meetings with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Pakistani and Sri Lankan prime ministers will also preside the event where several mutually beneficial bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) will be signed on February 23 at the Sri Lankan premier’s residence called Temple Trees, the official statement said.

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Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a tweet that he looked forward to welcoming Pakistani PM Imran Khan and his delegation in ‪Sri Lanka next week. “This visit will further reinforce our bilateral relationship and pave way for joint ventures that mutually benefit both our nations” he said.

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High-powered delegation

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Key ministers and senior officials who would accompany PM Khan include Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, PM’s commerce adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, secretary foreign affairs Sohail Mahmood. PM Khan will also lead the delegation-level talks, covering all areas of cooperation including trade and investment, health and education, agriculture, science and technology, defence and security, and culture and tourism.

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During his maiden official visit to Sri Lanka, PM Khan will be accompanied by a high-powered business and investment delegation comprising of business leaders mainly from the sectors of textile, pharmaceuticals, agro-food, sports goods, ICT, gems and jewellery, auto parts, construction material and surgical equipment.

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Pakistani prime minister will also participate in a joint Trade and Investment Conference and a sports diplomacy initiative amidst several other high-level engagements in Sri Lanka to promote trade ties. Pakistan and Sri Lanka commerce secretaries during their recent meeting agreed to enhance economic cooperation to realize the true potential of the free trade agreement and usher new avenues of bilateral investment.

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Strengthen friendship

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The Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association will be also renewed to foster parliamentary exchanges. The high-level visit “would help further strengthen the Pakistan-Sri Lanka relationship and enhance mutual cooperation in diverse fields” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.

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Pakistan and Sri Lanka have maintained close and cordial relations since 1948. The two countries share common views on a wide range of international and regional issues and have worked closely at the international and regional fora including the United Nations and SAARC, Pakistan foreign office said.

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