Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has desired to further enhance bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and welcomed the convening of the Joint Economic Commission in Colombo, to be held after a gap of six years. He stressed that the JEC should meet every year to expand the scope of bilateral economic and commercial relations. Both countries have been engaged in concerted efforts to increase bilateral trade since the signing of the Free Trade Agreement. Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka have touched US$ 300 million mark while imports are around US$ 50 million.

The Prime Minister while talking to the Sri Lankan delegation headed by Mr. Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister for Industry & Commerce at PM House this afternoon said that Pakistan looks forward to greater cooperation in the fields of Education and Science & Technology. While expressing his appreciation for high quality of the Sri Lankan gems and jewelry sector, the Prime Minister desired technical assistance to develop Pakistan’s gems and jewelry industry with the same professionalism as in Sri Lanka. Pakistan was happy to continue to extend scholarships to Sri Lankan students under the Pakistan Technical Porgramme. The Prime Minister announced six scholarships for students from Northern Part of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Minister specially thanked the Prime Minister and the Government of Pakistan for sending the precious and sacred Buddha relics to Sri Lanka which elicited profound interest of the people of Sri Lanka. The President, the Prime Minister and the people have greatly appreciated this friendly gesture. The Prime Minister was happy to note the enthusiasm with which the people of Sri Lanka have responded to the Ghandara artifacts exhibition for which Pakistan had sent Buddha’s relics to Colombo last month. The Buddha relics were displayed on the occasion of 2600th anniversary of the attainment of enlightment by Buddha.

The Prime Minister congratulated the Minister on Sri Lanka’s successful campaign against terrorism. He said that Pakistan too has achieved a number of successes in the war against terror and arrested or killed main terrorist leaders, yet splinter groups are still engaged in sabotage activities. He was confident that Pakistan would soon succeed in stamping out this menace from the country. The Sri Lankan Minister expressed his Government’s deep appreciation for Pakistan’s unstinted support to Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism. The Minister who belongs to the Northern Part of Sri Lanka was confident that after 17 years of war against terrorism, his country was now embarked on rehabilitation and sustained peace. He said that Sri Lanka looked forward to support and cooperation from Pakistan.

The Prime Minister extended an invitation to the President and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to visit Pakistan. He was looking forward to meet Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Maldives at the next SAARC Summit in November this year.

In the morning, the Sri Lankan Minister held a bilateral meeting with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs who also hosted a lunch in his honour and later addressed a joint press conference.

Air Chief Marshal Jayalath Weerakody High Commission of Sri Lanka, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mrs. Hina Rabbani Khar, Secretaries Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Economic Affairs Division and other senior officers were also present in the meeting with the Prime Minister.