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Zardari begins three-day visit

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President Zardari is the first head of state to visit Sri Lanka after President Rajapakse assumed office for a second six-year term on November 19.

The President was received at the Bandranaike Airport by the Sri Lankan President and members of his cabinet. As the Pakistani and Sri Lankan flags fluttered in the background, the national anthems of the two countries were played.

Folk dancers attired in traditional outfit danced to the tunes of Sri Lankan drummers and two children attired in traditional dress garlanded the President. A red carpet was rolled out for him, while huge banners and buntings adorned the entire route from the airport to the hotel

A contingent of the Sri Lankan armed forces presented a salute to the President as he reviewed the guard of honour.

A booming 21-gun salute announced the arrival of President Zardari and the host President introduced him to his cabinet members and the Services Chiefs.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Chairman Board of Investment Saleem Mandviwala and a trade and business delegation are part of the delegation that will explore new avenues for cooperation during their stay in the Sri Lankan capital. Foreign Minister Qureshi will hold separate talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart Prof. G.L. Peiris.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka Seema Ilahi Baloch said 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.

She said President Zardari would hold talks with Sri Lankan leaders on enhancing economic cooperation within the ambit of the Free Trade Agreement signed between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2002. Extensive discussions on tourism, cultural ties and media relations are also expected, she added.

The Ambassador said Sri Lanka appreciated the assistance provided by Pakistan in helping it counter terrorism and mentioned the warmth with which President Zardari was received.

She said Pakistan played a key role in helping Sri Lanka to curb the menace of terrorism. The two countries will extend cooperation in sharing experiences to curb terrorism and improve coordination for achieving greater success.

The ambassador said the two leaders will also expand cooperation in encouraging cooperation in media between the two countries. Pakistan and Sri Lanka will also enhance cooperation in the field of cultural and religious tourism, as Pakistan has a rich Buddhist heritage that can be explored for closer interaction between the two countries.

Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that the President’s four-day visit will focus on discussion on a host of bilateral, regional and international issues with President Mahinda besides meeting with Sri Lankan entrepreneurs at a Business Forum. He said the President would also interact with the members of Sri- Lankan Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association.

He said the visit was aimed at further strengthening bilateral ties between the people of the two countries which date back to the days of the Buddhist civilization and have been marked by a shared interest in regional peace and stability and the fight against militancy.

Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Management A.H.M Fowzie said Pakistan helped his country in very difficult times and today it was enjoying the dividend of peace. Minister for Agriculture Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said the visit would further deepen the close ties between the two countries and expand cooperation in new areas.

President Zardari will hold talks with Sri Lankan leaders on enhancing economic cooperation within the ambit of Free Trade Agreement signed between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2002 and made operational in 2005.

Extensive discussions on tourism, cultural ties and media relations are also expected. Pakistan is the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka in South Asia after India and Sri Lanka was the first country to sign a free trade agreement with Pakistan.

A statement from the Foreign Office described President Zardari’s visit part of a long tradition of high-level contacts and exchanges between the two countries.

President Zardari will also congratulate President Rajapakse on assuming his office for the second term, after the overwhelming victory in the January 26 election.

The last bilateral visit to Sri Lanka by a Pakistani leader was in 2002. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse last met at Thimpu, Bhutan on the sidelines of the SAARC conference in April this year, with an understanding to strengthen defence and trade cooperation.-dawn

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November 27, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Posted in News

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