Welcome PM Imran Khan | Daily News

Welcome PM Imran Khan

Sri Lanka will today roll the Red Carpet for visiting Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, which will unfold another chapter in the strong bonds and friendship forged between the two countries over the decades. Pakistan had always been a great friend of this country in both fair and foul weather.

This was proved to the hilt during the separatist war where Pakistan was only one of the few countries which came to our assistance in both financial and military terms which went a long way in contributing to the ultimate military victory over the LTTE.

Of course the assistance came with no strings attached whether it was a civilian or military Government that ruled Pakistan, for which Sri Lanka owes a deep debt of gratitude. Pakistani military academies were also made readily available for military training of our Forces personnel with the latest techniques in warfare that made our men that much skilled and competent.

Premier Khan of course would be very familiar with the ground situation having toured this country as Pakistan's cricket captain in 1986 when the war was at its zenith (prior to that he was a member of Pakistan teams to Sri Lanka in 1976 and 1979). Perhaps more than any other visiting leader, Imran Khan would be readily welcomed by cricket mad Sri Lankans for the lasting impression he made during his visits here as a fast bowler even though our own batsmen were at the receiving end of his thunderbolts, coupled with his flamboyant movie star appearance that left an indelible mark on Sri Lankans. Who among us can forget Pakistan's generous gesture in sending a group of its top cricketers here, who in combination with some of India's leading players featured in an exhibition game with Arjuna’s boys when Australia and West Indies snubbed this country by boycotting their World Cup fixtures in Sri Lanka citing the war as an excuse. This stand in solidarity has been symbolic of Pakistan's relations with this country right throughout, which will be cemented by the visit of the Pakistani Premier.

Serious and important business is on the agenda for PM Khan's two-day visit. He is accompanied by a high-powered Pakistani business delegation, along with a ministerial entourage. Promotion of trade and investment is billed to receive top priority. He will hold talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa with several high-level engagements also planned including a Business and Investment Forum. Both Prime Ministers will also preside over an event to sign several mutually beneficial bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) following official talks.

Discussions are also bound touch on the cultural ties between the two countries taking into account that Pakistan was also home to a rich Buddhist civilization centuries back, traces of which are still evident. PM Khan’s visit assumes additional significance at a time when Sri Lanka is once again in the crosshairs of the United Nation's Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which is in the midst of its ritual targeting of this country for alleged human rights violations during the war. Pakistan has always voted against the past resolutions in this respect and there is no doubt it will do so again. Prime Minister Khan’s visit at this stage will most likely influence Middle East countries to throw their weight behind Sri Lanka.

The Coronavirus pandemic too will come up for discussion. Pakistan is among the very few countries (Sri Lanka included) which had successfully managed the contagion while the virus continues to rage elsewhere, the ready availability of the vaccine notwithstanding. The prevailing health emergency though regretfully has prevented Premier Khan from addressing Sri Lanka's Parliament. He would have been only the second Pakistani Head of State to have done so after Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1975.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Sri Lanka also comes at a time when the geopolitical picture in the region is taking on a murky shade. Regional powers India and Pakistan had already fought three wars and almost resumed hostilities recently over a border spat. The Kashmir issue too is sticking out like a sore thumb between the two sides. Although Pakistan is a key player in the region it has so far, at least on the surface, not been drawn into the web of geopolitical intrigue, nor shown itself to be proxy player in the region though it has a healthy relationship with China. It is not clear if geopolitical matters would feature in the discussions during Khan's visit although the subject is bound to come up at some point in the natural course of things.

It is incumbent on the Government to derive all benefits and advantages it could out of this visit of the Pakistani Head of State covering all areas of trade, investment and other vital areas of the economy. After all Imran Khan is the first Head of State to arrive in the country following the election of the present Government and also the first foreign leader to come here in 2021, as Sri Lanka strives to recover from the pandemic.