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Pakistan’s Imran Khan on maiden Sri Lanka visit to boost ties

Islamabad, Pakistan Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is due to arrive in Sri Lanka for a two-day visit the place he’ll meet Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for talks focusing on rising commerce and funding, Pakistan’s overseas workplace mentioned.

Khan will arrive within the Sri Lankan capital Colombo on Tuesday for his first visit to the island nation since taking workplace as Pakistani prime minister in 2018.

“The [Pakistani] prime minister will also lead the delegation-level talks, covering all areas of cooperation between the two countries including trade and investment, health and education, agriculture and science and technology, defence and security, and culture and tourism,” learn a Pakistani curtain-raiser assertion on the visit.

A Sri Lankan overseas ministry assertion mentioned the visit would characteristic “a business and investment forum, as well as a sports diplomacy initiative”.

Prime Minister Khan will probably be accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Commerce Minister Abdul Razzaq Dawood and a number of other different high-ranking officers.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka have historically loved heat relations, with significantly shut navy coaching cooperation through the latter levels of the Sri Lankan civil struggle which lasted greater than 20 years.

The Pakistani prime minister was one of many first world leaders to publicly congratulate President Rajapaksa on his landslide election victory two years in the past. The president’s elder brother Mahinda grew to become prime minister a number of months later.

Trade ties, nevertheless, stay comparatively restricted, with $359m in bilateral commerce within the final fiscal 12 months, in accordance to Pakistani central financial institution knowledge, nearly all of it Pakistani exports to Sri Lanka.

Analysts say Sri Lanka’s financial system stays closely targeted on commerce ties with European nations and the United States, reasonably than throughout the South Asian area.

Both international locations will probably be looking for to enhance these figures, as Rajapaksa and Khan search to revive home economies that took severe hits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ending compelled cremation

The Gotabayasreturned to energy in Sri Lanka in 2019, profitable a landslide victory within the presidential election following a divisive electoral marketing campaign that noticed their Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) social gathering stoke ethnic and spiritual tensions, interesting to majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.

Sri Lanka is house to 21.8 million individuals, some 10 % of whom are members of a Muslim minority that has come below rising persecution because the Rajapaksa brothers got here to energy, rights teams say, including that the federal government has tightened the civil rights house and pandered to right-wing Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.

Earlier this month, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda introduced that the island nation can be stopping the compelled cremation of people that have died from COVID-19, a controversial coverage that was seen to have unfairly focused Muslim residents whose beliefs require the lifeless to be buried.

The transfer was lauded by Pakistani Prime Minister Khan, who has lengthy taken up the problem of worldwide Islamophobia at worldwide fora and through bilateral talks with world leaders.

On February 16, nevertheless, rights group Human Rights Watch reported that compelled cremations had been ongoing, regardless of the reassurance from PM Rajapaksa.

World Health Organization tips state there isn’t a profit when it comes to limiting new infections to cremating those that die from COVID-19.

“With regard to the trajectory for Muslim rights, everything has been focused on the burial and cremation controversy,” says Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, govt director on the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Despite international guidelines and local expert opinion, the government insists that bodies need to be cremated, and I think that is blatantly racist.”

It is unclear whether or not Khan, who final October known as out French President Emmanuel Macron for “encouraging Islamophobia” would take up these points throughout his two-day visit.

“I would assume that he would have to bring [these issues] up and I don’t know what the response of the Sri Lankan government will be,” mentioned Saravanamuttu.

Last week, an handle Khan was deliberate to ship to Sri Lanka’s parliament throughout his visit was abruptly cancelled, with Sri Lankan media reporting the choice was taken to keep away from the potential for inflicting considerations with the Indian authorities if Khan had been to communicate concerning the disputed area of Kashmir.

“Clearly there was some consideration of him either bringing up Muslim rights or indeed the issue of Kashmir,” mentioned Saravanamuttu. “So to avoid ruffling Indian sensitivities and those of the majority [Sri Lankan] community who are behind the cremation/burial issue, it was decided that it would not happen.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in South Asia. He tweets @AsadHashim

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