Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is because of arrive in Sri Lanka for a two-day go to the place he’ll meet Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for talks specializing in growing commerce and funding, Pakistan’s international workplace mentioned.
Khan will arrive within the Sri Lankan capital Colombo on Tuesday for his first go to to the island nation since taking workplace as Pakistani prime minister in 2018.
“The [Pakistani] prime minister can even lead the delegation-level talks, masking all areas of cooperation between the 2 international locations together with commerce and funding, well being and schooling, agriculture and science and know-how, defence and safety, and tradition and tourism,” learn a Pakistani curtain-raiser assertion on the go to.
A Sri Lankan international ministry assertion mentioned the go to would characteristic “a enterprise and funding discussion board, in addition to a sports activities diplomacy initiative”.
Prime Minister Khan might be accompanied by International Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Commerce Minister Abdul Razzaq Dawood and several 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 battle which lasted greater than twenty 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 turned prime minister a number of months later.
Commerce ties, nonetheless, stay comparatively restricted, with $359m in bilateral commerce within the final fiscal 12 months, in accordance with Pakistani central financial institution information, nearly all of it Pakistani exports to Sri Lanka.
Analysts say Sri Lanka’s financial system stays closely centered on commerce ties with European nations and america, relatively than inside the South Asian area.
Each international locations might be searching for to extend these figures, as Rajapaksa and Khan search to revive home economies that took critical hits because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ending pressured 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) get together stoke ethnic and religious tensions, interesting to majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.
Sri Lanka is residence to 21.8 million individuals, some 10 p.c of whom are members of a Muslim minority that has come below growing 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 forced 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 world Islamophobia at worldwide fora and through bilateral talks with world leaders.
We welcome Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assurance given in Sri Lankan Parliament at the moment permitting Muslims to bury those that died from COVID19.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 10, 2021
On February 16, nonetheless, rights group Human Rights Watch reported that pressured cremations have been ongoing, regardless of the reassurance from PM Rajapaksa.
World Well being Group tips state there isn’t a profit by way of limiting new infections to cremating those that die from COVID-19.
“With regard to the trajectory for Muslim rights, every thing has been centered on the burial and cremation controversy,” says Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, govt director on the Colombo-based Centre for Coverage Alternate options. “Regardless of worldwide tips and native skilled opinion, the federal government insists that our bodies should be cremated, and I believe that’s blatantly racist.”
It’s unclear whether or not Khan, who final October referred to as out French President Emmanuel Macron for “encouraging Islamophobia” would take up these points throughout his two-day go to.
“I might assume that he must carry [these issues] up and I don’t know what the response of the Sri Lankan authorities might be,” mentioned Saravanamuttu.
Final week, an deal with Khan was deliberate to ship to Sri Lanka’s parliament throughout his go to 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 have been to discuss the disputed area of Kashmir.
“Clearly there was some consideration of him both citing Muslim rights or certainly the problem of Kashmir,” mentioned Saravanamuttu. “So to keep away from ruffling Indian sensitivities and people of the bulk [Sri Lankan] group who’re behind the cremation/burial difficulty, it was determined that it will not occur.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in South Asia. He tweets @AsadHashim