Pakistan, Sri Lanka discuss defence

[TamilNet, Monday, 22 November 2004, 18:10 GMT]
Sri Lanka and Pakistan agreed to further strengthen their traditional cooperation in defence during high level talks between visiting Pak premier and President Kumaratunga on Sunday. Both sides agreed to review the defence credit line of US $ 20 million ''with a view to its operationalization.'' President Kumaratunga accepted an invitation by Pakistan to visit the country early next year, according to a press note by the Sri Lankan govt.

Joint Press Statement from the meeting between the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the President of Sri Lanka follows:

  1. His Excellency, Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Pakistan, accompanied by Madam Rukshana Aziz paid an official visit to Sri Lanka from 21-22 November 2004. He was accompanied by the Minister for Petroleum, Minister for Railways, Minister for Water and Power, Ministers of State for Foreign Affairs, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, and Overseas Pakistanis, Senators, members of the National Assembly as well as the Foreign Secretary and officials of the Foreign Ministry. Businessmen and media personnel also constituted an important segment of the delegation. The Prime Minister and delegation were received at the airport by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa.


  2. The Pakistan Prime Minister held wide ranging discussions with the President of Sri Lanka and met the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who, hosted a banquet in his honour.


  3. At the official talks the President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga accepted the invitation extended to her by President Musharaff to visit Pakistan early next year.


  4. The discussions were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere. The leaders noted with satisfaction that Sri Lanka and Pakistan enjoy warm and friendly relations based on mutual respect and a common desire for cooperation. Both sides agreed that meetings between leaders of the two countries contributed in enhancing the excellent bilateral relations that exists between the two countries and reaffirmed the desire to continue to have such interactions to strengthen the cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan and further develop their partnership for peace and development.


  5. On areas relating to bilateral economic cooperation, both sides expressed their commitment to the early conclusion of the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The framework Agreement of the FTA was signed in August 2002. Hence the leaders agreed to give political guidance to the respective negotiating teams who are due to meet in Islamabad on 24th November, so that the negotiation process would be accelerated and concluded by the end of 2004, with a view for signature early next year.


  6. Sri Lanka raised the possibility of increasing the volume of exports of tea to Pakistan. Both sides expressed the view that there could be an agreement on certain identified items, which could be exported into each others’ countries with limits on volume. It was agreed that both sides should attempt to reach an early agreement.


  7. With regard to the Joint Economic Commission, which had not met since 2002, it was agreed to convene a meeting in the latter half of December 2004 in Sri Lanka. The Civil Aviation authorities could also be included in the meeting to discuss the strengthening of air links between the two countries.


  8. As a gesture of good will, Pakistan offered a US $ 10 million export credit facility to Sri Lanka, which could be utilised for the purchase of goods from Pakistan.


  9. Sri Lanka thanked Pakistan for increasing the number of scholarships for Sri Lankan students from eight to sixteen and for offering placements for Sri Lankan diplomats at the Foreign Service institute in Pakistan. Pakistan agreed further to help in securing placements for Sri Lankan students in business, IT and medical and other academic institutions in which Pakistan has special expertise.


  10. It was noted that Pakistan and Sri Lanka could mutually learn from each other’s specialised experiences and skills. Pakistan offered to provide assistance in the fields of banking, telecommunications and IT. Sri Lanka in turn would provide assistance and expertise in the textile and garment sector, as well as the gem and jewellery industry. In this regard, Sri Lanka invited Pakistan to send a team to study the gem and jewellery industry in Sri Lanka. It was noted that Pakistan was keen to offer employment opportunities for Sri Lankan professionals, including teachers.


  11. Other areas of cooperation discussed included cooperation in tourism, which was identified as an area in which Pakistan could learn from Sri Lanka. On the subject of cultural exchanges, it was noted that both sides should strive for greater cooperation as it promotes people to people contacts and thereby a better understanding between the peoples of the two countries. It was agreed that a detailed plan of action on cultural exchanges should be signed next year.


  12. The exchange of Parliamentary delegations was another proposal that was agreed upon between the two sides.


  13. The President of Sri Lanka, expressed Sri Lanka’s appreciation for the support and assistance extended to Sri Lanka by Pakistan in the field of defence. Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in this field and to review the credit line (US $ 20 million) with a view to its operationalization.


  14. The Prime Minister of Pakistan is in Sri Lanka in his capacity as Chairman of SAARC. According to SAARC practice the Chair visits the member States prior to handing over the post to the next Chair.


  15. The two sides held a comprehensive discussion on cooperation within SAARC. Sri Lanka conveyed its appreciation to Pakistan on its effective Chairmanship since taking over the Chair in January 2004. It was observed that there has been a fresh momentum in SAARC activities mainly due to the leadership provided by Pakistan. Both sides decided to cooperate closely to make SAARC more effective.


  16. Ongoing cooperation in a number of areas including SAFTA, the Plan of Action on Poverty Alleviation and the Social Charter was discussed. Both sides are working on the implementation of the Social Charter, which is considered a vital component for the social upliftment of the peoples in the region. Pakistan would be circulating a concept paper with special focus on health and on addressing the need to control the spread of HIV/ AIDS in South Asia, and particularly on education.


  17. Other subjects discussed were the proposal to strengthen the SAARC Secretariat. Both sides emphasised the need to employ specialists in core economic areas while maintaining the minimum staff requirement. It was agreed that the member States should give serious thought to formulating a vision for SAARC. Pakistan would be submitting a draft vision document for the third decade of SAARC at the next summit. It was noted that all these issues will be discussed at the SAARC Summit to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in January 2005.

 

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