Sri Lanka and Pakistan signed six agreements, including one on atomic energy, on Monday. The island looks to build its first nuclear plant and has looked to us to be the guiding hand. The Sri Lankan premier has welcomed Pakistani investment and invited the Pakistan International Airlines to re-commence flights to Sri Lanka. On the other hand, Narendra Modi has urged Sri Lanka’s new leaders to give greater autonomy to its Tamil minority after a long ethnic war when he visited the Island in March. Pakistan has provided military assistance in the past to Sri Lanka against Tamil Tiger guerrillas before 2009. Could a greater peace be possible where a small country remained cordial with two countries, historically enemies? Sri Lanka is keen to attract Pakistani investments in sugar, cement, textiles, dairy production, chemical plants, pharmaceuticals and information technology. Along with India’s newly announced foreign policy realisations, the rest of the region is also following suit, looking towards trade ties to cement peace. However, Sri Lanka will always be caught in the India-Pakistan nexus. Indian news papers last month said that following the change in regime in Sri Lanka, India intelligence agencies would engage with their counterparts on the island nation to crack down on the “growing influence of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)” in the region. They say ISI has taken root thanks to the active support of the staff of Pakistan’s embassy in Colombo.

Two other MoUs were on an academic cooperation agreement on exchange and collaboration between the National Defence University of Pakistan and Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies of Sri Lanka and collaboration in the field of Sports. Academic exchange programs in countries where our youth can easily travel to are essential. Iran and India have not become viable options for higher education for Pakistanis, and Sri Lanka can be one worthwhile avenue. The same is the case with sports. Diplomacy can help in bringing sports events back to Pakistan as well ass help shift focus from issues of terrorism and security. There is a deep need for this to happen, not just in the case of Sri Lankan-Pakistani relations but also to encourage more cultural exchange and tolerance between states, whether it be India, Iran or Afghanistan.