Warm welcome for Zardari in Colombo

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa greets Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Colombo on Saturday. — Photo: AP

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa greets Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Colombo on Saturday. — Photo: AP  

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari arrived here on Saturday on a four-day state visit at the invitation of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr. Rajapaksa, along with senior members of his government, received him at the Bandaranaike International Airport to the accompaniment of a 21-gun salute. The Sri Lankan government is marking the visit as a major event, the first by a head of a state since Mr. Rajapaksa began his second term.

“During the visit, the two Presidents will hold extensive talks on bilateral, regional and global issues,” said the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

Those accompanying Mr. Zardari include Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Chairman Board of Investment Saleem Mandviwala and a trade and business delegation.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry said Mr. Zardari will interact with members of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association and will address the Business Forum, comprising Sri Lankan businessmen and corporate leaders.

“Pakistan and Sri Lanka have active engagement in all important fields including trade and commerce. Relations between the two are based on mutual trust and shared interest in maintaining regional peace, security and stability. Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoy commonality of views on regional and international issues. They regularly coordinate their positions at the United Nations and SAARC,” it said.

Pakistan's ambassador to Sri Lanka Seema Ilahi Baloch told the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) that the two countries already had cooperation in political, defence, culture and trade and the visit would deepen these ties besides strengthening people to people contacts.

On terrorism

The Ambassador told the news agency that Sri Lanka appreciated the assistance provided by Pakistan in countering terrorism. “The two countries will extend cooperation in sharing experiences to curb terrorism and improve coordination for achieving greater success”, it said.

The last visit to Sri Lanka by a Pakistani leader was in 2002. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Mr. Rajapaksa last met in April at Thimpu, Bhutan on the sidelines of the SAARC conference. APP said Pakistan-Sri Lanka ties had stood the test of time and despite incidents like the March 3, 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket team in Lahore and an attack on the convoy carrying the Pakistani High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bashir Wali Mohamed on August 14, 2006 in Colombo.

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