Zardari arrives in Sri Lanka on maiden visit

Bilateral defence and economic cooperation is expected to figure prominently in talks between Sri Lankan leaders and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari who arrived here on Saturday on a maiden visit.

Updated: Nov 27, 2010, 23:39 PM IST

Colombo: Bilateral defence and economic
cooperation is expected to figure prominently in talks between
Sri Lankan leaders and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari
who arrived here on Saturday on a maiden visit.

He was accorded a warm welcome by the President
Mahinda Rajapksa who was present at the Bandaranaike
international airport to receive the Pakistani leader.

Pakistan was a major supporter of the Sri Lankan
government during its war against the LTTE. Zaradari`s arrival
on November 27 is significant as the LTTE used to celebrate
its great heroes day annually on November 27.

Briefing journalists 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.

"The visit was aimed at further strengthening the
bilateral ties between the peoples of the two countries which
date back to the days of Buddhist civilisation and have been
marked by a shared interest in regional peace and stability
and fight against militancy," a release quoting Babar said.

This is the first official visit of Zardari to Colombo
after assuming office over two years ago and the first by any
head of state after the election for the second term of
Rajapaksa.

Zardari`s visit to Sri Lanka on an invitation by his
counterpart Rajapaksa, "is part of a long tradition of
high-level contacts and exchanges between the two countries",
the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The two Presidents will hold extensive talks on
bilateral, regional and global issues" it added.

Defence and economic cooperation between Sri Lanka and
Pakistan will be the key subjects of discussions during
Zaradri`s visit, local media reported.

Zaradari will preside Sri Lanka Pakistan business
forum tomorrow, Pakistan High commission here said.

"He is also scheduled to have several other meetings
with government and opposition representatives," External
Affairs ministry officials said.

Zardari is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah
Mahmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar and
other top officials.

The wide ranging bilateral talks between the two sides
include exploring the possibility of further expanding the FTA
(Free Trade Agreement) that was signed in 2002 and became
operational three years later in 2005.

Although the bilateral trade between the two countries
increased from USD 150 million to USD 350 million since then
Zardari has all along stressed that this level was far below
the true potential of trade between the two countries.

PTI