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March 7, 2021

‘It is high time for Pakistan, Sri Lanka to streamline their relationship’

Islamabad

March 7, 2021

Islamabad: Air Vice-Marshal (r) Shahzad Chaudhry has said that it is high time for Pakistan and Sri Lanka to streamline their relationship as the current regime in Sri Lanka is experienced in balancing their relationship.

Shahzad Chaudhry was speaking at the panel discussion on “PM Khan’s visit to Colombo” organised by the Institute of Regional Studies here Saturday.

AVM Chaudhry appreciated Sri Lanka’s support at a time when nobody was ready to come to Pakistan as the country was declared unsafe. He was of the view that we need to invest more in cementing our ties. Apart from economic collaborations, culture, religion, education, and sports are those areas that can bring both countries closer to each other. He stressed that Pakistan must learn and benefit from Sri Lanka’s skill development sector as it has certified, and trained people in every field.

Lt Gen (retd) Amjad Shoaib said that Colombo has limited foreign policy choices primarily because of Indian influence as prior to any foreign engagement, the island state has to provide assurance to the Indians that New Delhi’s interests would not be hurt.

He said that Pakistan, on the other hand, enjoys a close relationship with Sri Lanka. Islamabad is an important part of BRI and the CPEC. PM Khan has advised Sri Lanka to get benefit from the CPEC which can provide Colombo an excess to Central Asian states. But, he said, international pressure is constantly pulling the country away from this venture. He said that Pakistan can help Sri Lanka in neutralising major powers’ influence in the country as nobody has ever looked into the island’s own problems.

Journalist and author from Sri Lanka Asanga Abeyagoonasekera said that the visit is significant as both countries are under the radar now because of their important strategic locations in the region. Pakistan and Sri Lanka, more or less, are facing the same geopolitical challenges, he added. While commenting on PM Khan’s proposal of connecting CPEC with Hambantota Port, Mr. Asanga said that it is really an important workable suggestion but we need to build a regional security architecture first to keep the geo-political and geostrategic tensions at bay for better integration. Nevertheless, there are many areas where we can collaborate unconditionally.

Qamar Cheema, lecturer at NUML, was of the view that we need to invest in non-traditional areas, particularly in religious tourism that will not only bring the people of two countries closer but also help improve both countries’ image abroad. He urged that Pakistan should reach out to the neighbouring countries more proactively.

The panel discussion was chaired by Prof Shaheen Akhtar of National Defence University.