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Colombo, February 23 (PTI) Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived here on Tuesday on his first visit to the island nation during which he will hold in-depth discussions with key Sri Lankan leaders on various issues such as trade, defense and technology.
Khan, who is the first head of state to visit Sri Lanka since the COVID-19 pandemic, will hold meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa.
He will also lead discussions at the delegation level, covering all areas of cooperation between the two countries, including trade, investment, health, education, agriculture, science and technology, in addition to the defense and cultural tourism.
Khan will also participate in a joint trade and investment conference aimed at promoting trade and investment between the two countries. A number of agreements aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation will be signed during the visit.
This is Khan’s first visit to Sri Lanka after taking office in 2018. His last visit to Sri Lanka dates back to 1986 when he was captain of the Pakistani cricket team in the acrimonious test series where he accused local arbitrators of bias.
This is the first visit by a Pakistani Prime Minister to Sri Lanka since Nawaz Sharif visited the country in 2016.
Ahead of his visit, the Sri Lankan government last week canceled Khan’s planned speech in parliament, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is said that the speech in Parliament was included in the Khans’ itinerary at the request of the Pakistani government. The address was scheduled for February 24.
The Dawn newspaper, citing Sri Lankan media reports, said there were elements in the Sri Lankan government who did not want the speech to take place because they feared it would further damage ties with India, which have already been strained after the cancellation of an agreement on the eastern container terminal of the port of Colombo.
The Khans’ visit also coincides with the ongoing controversy over the forced cremations of members of the island’s Muslim minority community who are dying from COVID-19. The government is continuing its policy of forced cremation despite objections from rights groups.
Khan praised Sri Lanka earlier this month when Prime Minister Mahinda made a comment in parliament that burials would be allowed for Muslim victims of COVID-19. However, the decision has not yet been implemented.
In an open letter to Khan, international human rights organization Amnesty International urged him to raise the issue of forced cremations with Sri Lankan leaders during his visit.
“We urge you to raise this issue of forced cremations at the highest possible level during your visit to Sri Lanka, in solidarity with a minority community that has been denied any remedy.” We urge you to call on the Sri Lankan Government to end forced cremations and end the discrimination faced by the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, the letter said. PTI CORR RS ZH ZH
Disclaimer: – This story was not edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from News Agency feeds. Source: PTI
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