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Imran Khan in Sri Lanka: Many aspects of a relationship that India is looking at

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day visit to Sri Lanka, starting on Tuesday, has sparked a flurry of controversy over a canceled invitation to address the Sri Lankan parliament. But the ties between the two countries are on a much stronger footing than they seem right away, and this is unlikely to become a point of friction in a long and lasting relationship.

The trip to Colombo is only Imran Khan’s second attempt in the neighborhood since becoming Prime Minister. The first was in Afghanistan last November, two years after his election. The last time a Pakistani prime minister visited Colombo was Nawaz Sharif in 2016.

Alsoshte is also the first visit by a head of government to Sri Lanka since the beginning of the pandemic. For Colombo, the visit is very valuable. It comes at a difficult time for the government on the international stage. Immediately, it is preparing to withdraw on the coals in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights for withdrawal from the resolution 30/1 of September 2015, under which it was engaged to conduct investigations into the crimes of war.

To make matters worse, the Islamic world is horrified by Sri Lanka’s tight rules on the recent rites of Muslims who have died from COVID-19. Burials are not strictly allowed. All bodies must be burned. The rule created a storm in Sri Lanka, with community leaders convinced it was nothing more than an extension of state persecution of Muslims.

The community, which makes up about 11 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, has had strained relations with the state and with the Buddhist Sinhala majority for most of the past decade, with unrest disrupting calm once every few years. But tensions have risen after synchronized Easter suicide bombings by a group of men and women who have declared themselves members of ISIS.

When Prime Minister Rajapakse recently told Parliament that Muslim burials would be allowed, Imran Khan wrote his praises on Twitter. We welcome the security of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa given to the Sri Lankan Parliament today allowing Muslims to bury those who died from COVID-19, Imran wrote on Twitter, although the government is still not acting on this security and officials have made noises. opposite.

Amnesty International has asked Khan to take up the issue with Sri Lanka during his visit.

Sri Lankan media reports have speculated that this may be one reason why the planned visit of the visiting Prime Minister to Parliament was canceled by the hosts. The other reason speculated was the concern that he would raise the issue of Kashmir and that there was pressure from India to cancel the event.

Sri Lanka can still formally accept the funeral request and if it comes during Imran Khan’s visit, it could be lucrative for both parties. Colombo needs all the friends it can in Geneva in the coming weeks, including places in the Islamic world. To get to the Muslim cause of Sri Lanka, Khan could look for a few brownie spots at home and in Islamic states, with some of which the UAE, Saudi Arabia, has recently had a tough time.

The Pakistani Prime Minister is in Colombo along with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and trade and commerce officials.

Pakistan is Sri Lanka’s second largest trading partner in South Asia after India. The Dawn newspaper reported that the two countries decided to reactivate a Joint Working Group (JWG) to resolve pending trade technical issues, during trade secretary-level talks on February 18th. Sri Lanka and Pakistan have a free trade agreement dating back to 2005. Pakistan The main exports to Sri Lanka are textiles and cement. Sri Lanka’s main exports to Pakistan are tea, tires and ready-made garments.

Over the past decade, Pakistan has also designed its ancient Buddhist ties to promote cultural ties with Sri Lanka.

But it is defense ties that are a strong pillar of Sri Lankan-Pakistan bilateral relations. After India withdrew the IPKF in 1990, it did not offer any active defense support to the Sri Lankan military, although it had intelligence divisions during the war against the LTTE. Sri Lanka turned to Pakistan for weapons, ammunition, and training for its fighter pilots.

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Gotabaya, who was defense secretary at the time, visited Pakistan in 2008 to make a request for emergency assistance with military supplies. There were also unfounded allegations in the Pakistani media after the end of the war that Pakistani Air Force pilots had flown bombers in northern Sri Lanka.

Just as Sri Lankan military officers come to India for training at NDC and College College, Wellington (President Rajapaksa is a student at Wellington), they also go to Pakistani military academies for training. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka participated in Pakistan’s multi-national Aman naval exercise.

During the 1971 war, Pakistan Air Force aircraft were refueled in Sri Lanka. Pakistani envoys to Sri Lanka are usually retired military officials, and the same was true for Sri Lankan High Commissioners to Pakistan until a few years ago. In 2006, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Tigers carried out an attack in Colombo against Pakistani High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Bashir Wali Mohamand, the former chief of intelligence. He escaped the attack, but seven others were killed.

As Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor with strong, inclusive ties, even if these are sometimes problematic, India has not perceived Pakistan as a serious rival in Sri Lanka so far.

Sporadically, the Indian security institution has expressed concerns about Pakistan’s role in radicalizing Muslims, particularly in East Sri Lanka, where funds have been poured into new mosques from several West Asian countries, and the effect this could have on India. .

There is now a new care for a triangle in the links between Sri Lanka, China and Pakistan in defense co-operation, though it has not been publicly expressed. In 2016, India pressured Sri Lanka to drop a plan to buy Chinese-made JF-17 Thunder aircraft made in Pakistan and co-produced by Chinese Corporation Chengdu Aircraft.

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