ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday briefed his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena on the dire situation and human rights crisis in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK), said Foreign office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal. The FO spokesperson said Qureshi told the Sri Lankan foreign minister that the 120-day plus lockdown remains a “cause of serious concern” for the international community. During the meeting the two ministers discussed trade, investment, tourism and people to people contacts. The spokesperson said: “Both countries [are] very keen to further deepen and strengthen the entire gamut of bilateral relations.”

Foreign Minister Qureshi is on a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka and is the first Pakistani official to visit the country after its elections. The minister invited Gunawardena to visit Pakistan with a delegation from the Sri Lankan business community to boost bilateral trade and investment between the two countries.

Pakistan extends invitation to new Sri Lankan president

The foreign minister also met the recently elected Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Faisal said that Foreign Minister Qureshi also handed over an invitation from President Arif Alvi to the newly-elected Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to visit the country

In a tweet Faisal said Qureshi and the Sri Lankan President discussed bilateral issues, trade, investment and people to people contacts. The FO spokesperson said: “FM handed over a letter from President to President of Sri Lanka and invited him to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.” The spokesperson said: “Both countries [are] very keen to further deepen and strengthen the entire gamut of bilateral relations.”

Speaking to the media after the  meeting, Qureshi termed his meeting with the Sri Lankan foreign minister as “excellent” and extended an invitation to Gunawardena to visit Islamabad. “During the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the ties between our countries were at a high level. Both our countries have always enjoyed excellent relations, and we have always helped each other,” he told reporters soon after his arrival, referring to the elder Rajapaksa brother. In a meeting, the top diplomat discussed with the president matters related to bilateral relations and regional issues, a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Rajapaksa said that rather than looking for financial assistance, efforts should be made to ensure continuous and enhanced growth in trade and investments on a mutually beneficial basis. “Drug trafficking and addiction is a grave evil that my country is confronted with. We wish to seek Pakistan’s assistance to eradicate this menace,” he added. The president also requested the government of Pakistan to help Sri Lanka in the fight against extremism.

In the video shared by APP, the foreign minister could be seen saying: “I’m fortunate to be the first foreign minister to have visited Colombo since the new government had been elected.” Qureshi said that during the meeting the two ministers discussed the ways in which they can take the relations forward, saying, “There is a lot we can do to promote our mutual interest.” Incidentally, the Pakistani foreign minister’s visit to Sri Lanka comes just days after Rajapaksa returned from an official visit to India, his first foreign visit since taking office.