Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that there was significant potential for trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka particularly after the Free Trade Agreement 2005 became operational. The Prime Minister was talking to Sri Lankan Secretary for External Affairs Mrs Kshenuka D. Senewiratune, who called on him here.
He emphasized the importance of relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Pakistan had helped Sri lanka to kill more than 40,000 minority Tamil community in may 2009. The Prime Minister said it was a matter of great satisfaction that the last session of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission had agreed to activate the four Joint Working Groups on Trade, Investment, Auto Sector and Customs cooperation.
Mrs Senewiratune said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka had always supported each other on various international fora. She also expressed the resolve that this cooperation in the realms of trade and investment would continue between the two countries in the future as well. The meeting was also attended by Sri Lankan Air Chief Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody, Sri Lankan.
It was the Pakistani defence cooperation with Sri Lanka as one of the largest suppliers of high-tech military equipment that has played a major role in killing Tamil civilians in May 2009.
According to well placed sources in the Pakistani establishment, defence cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan had grown significantly in recent years as Islamabad, unlike New Delhi, had no problems supplying the Lankan army state-of-the-art weaponry to accelerate its counter-insurgency operations against the LTTE . The sources say it was in the first week of May 2008 that Sri Lankan Army Chief Lt-Gen Fonseka came to Pakistan and held detailed talks with his Pakistani counterpart Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to finalise the purchase of high tech arms for the Lankan armed forces, which were embroiled in an intense battle with the LTTE forces even at that time.
- During his talks with Pakistani military authorities, Lt-Gen Fonseka had finalised a deal as per which Pakistan sold 22 Al-Khalid tanks to Sri Lanka in a deal worth over US$100 million.
- General Fonseka also gave a shopping list of weaponry worth about US$65 million to the Pakistani military authorities.
- While the Sri Lankan army chief’s shopping list for the army was pegged at $25 million,
- The inventory for the Lankan Air Force was worth $40 million.
- He had further sought 250,000 rounds of 60mm, 81mm, 120mm and 130mm mortar ammunition worth US$ 25 million
- 1, 50,000 hand grenades for immediate delivery to the Lankan army within a month.
- Pakistan also accepted the visiting General’s request to send one shipload of the wherewithal every 10 days to bolster the Lankan military efforts to take over Kilinochchi, the headquarters of the LTTE.
On Jan 19, 2009, in a meeting between Pakistani Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Syed Athar Ali and his visiting Lankan counterpart Gotabhaya Rajapakse in Rawalpindi, the two countries had agreed to enhance cooperation in military training, exercises and intelligence sharing regarding terrorism. The agreement came amidst Sri Lankan media reports that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilots had participated in several successful air strikes against several military bases of the LTTE in August 2008. These reports further claimed that a highly trained group of the Pakistani armed forces officers is stationed in Colombo to guide the Sri Lankan security forces in their counter-insurgency operations against the LTTE.
However, it was not the first time that the Pakistan army was helping Sri Lanka militarily in its prolonged fight against the LTTE guerrilla fighters. Back in 2000, when LTTE offensive code-named Operation Ceaseless Waves overran Sri Lankan military positions in the north and captured the Elephant Pass Base and entered Jaffna, and was being feared that LTTE would run down thousands of Sri Lankan troops stationed in Jaffna, the Sri Lankans had sought Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher System (MBRLS) and other high tech weaponry from Pakistan on urgent basis.
Subsequently, MBRLS and weapons and ammunition, including artillery shells and multi-barrel rocket launchers, were airlifted in an emergency operation from Karachi to Colombo in May 2000.
Later, in 2006, the Sri Lankan authorities had again sought Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher System (MBRLS) and other advanced weapons from Pakistan when Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Pakistan in March 2006 along with an 80-member delegation that included some high ranking military officials.