Saturday, February 20, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will be visiting Sri Lanka on February 23 for two days, the Foreign Office confirmed after weeks of speculation Friday.
He has been invited by his Sri Lanka counterpart Mahindra Rajapaksa.
This will be the premier's first visit to Sri Lanka since he has assumed office.
PM Khan will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including members of the Cabinet and senior officials.
Meetings with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa are on the agenda.
Besides bilateral matters, views will be exchanged on key regional and international issues, the FO statement read.
The premier's programme is still being finalised and despite attempts by Pakistan, PM Khan’s address to the Sri Lankan Parliament had to be scrapped, The News reported officials as saying.
During the visit, the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association will be also announced to further promote parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.
The premier will participate in a joint ‘Trade and Investment Conference’ to promote trade and investment between the two countries. A number of MoUs to enhance bilateral cooperation will be signed during the visit.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have maintained close, cordial and mutually supportive relations since 1948. The two countries share commonality of views on a wide range of international and regional issues. Both sides also work closely at the international and regional fora including the United Nations and SAARC.
Sri Lanka cancelled the premier's scheduled address to the country’s Parliament due to coronavirus restrictions, it was reported by Sri Lankan publication Daily Express earlier this week.
Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage told the publication that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had asked the government to cancel the address as he could not ensure full attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The publication also quoted Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena saying that Colombo had added PM Imran Khan’s address at the request of Islamabad.
The newspaper reported that the address could have also been cancelled due to fears of certain government officials that it might "sour" ties with India.
The cancelled address was scheduled to take place on February 24 as part of the two-day trip of the prime minister.
Had the address not been cancelled then PM Imran Khan would have become the third Pakistani leader to address the Sri Lankan legislature.
Only two Pakistani leaders — President Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — have addressed the Sri Lankan Parliament before.