Growing Pak-Lanka relations, all thanks to India
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have always been reliable allies with their historic relations regardless of geographical and religious constraints. This equation of reliance and relationship further advanced during the recent visit of Imran Khan, PM of Pakistan, to Sri Lanka.
PM Imran pitched an initiative of the economic corridor to Sri Lanka and said that Pakistan would find “ways and means to enhance trade and connectivity” with Sri Lanka.
Pakistan has also extended a $50 million line of credit for defense purchases to Sri Lanka along with an arrangement to increase cooperation in intelligence sharing, security issues, anti-terrorism/anti-crime operations, and reactivation of the Joint Working Group (JWG).
During the PM visit, both countries reiterated to improve trade and investment connections from the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota to Gwadar while integrating Central Asian markets.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a well-devised plan which offers the shortest trade route for global supply chains while providing Pakistani and Sri Lankan traders equivalent prospects to connect to the world through Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be the major beneficiaries of connected maritime and land-based trade routes and this will assist the recipient countries to allocate the dividends in terms of infrastructure, energy, and telecommunications sectors.
Reasons for Pak-Lanka ties
Pakistan is the second largest trade partner of Sri Lanka after India in South Asia. Whereas, defense links are a strong pillar of bilateral relations between Colombo and Islamabad.
Pakistan has offered Sri Lanka substantial military assistance in the past, in particular during the crucial moments of the decades-long civil conflict against Tamil rebels.
Therefore, the driving force behind Pak-Lanka bonhomie is New Delhi’s hegemonic approach towards its neighbors, especially with Sri Lanka.
In the 1980s, the former Indian PM, Indira Gandhi, facilitated the Sri Lankan ethnic civil war by funding, training, and arming terrorists against the legitimate government.
Sri Lanka has always shown apprehensions towards the negative role played by the Indian government in fanning terrorism.
New Delhi has shown no restraint in promoting political turmoil in Colombo and in damaging the international stature of the small island country, consequently, Sri Lanka refused to play the role of “Indian satellite” and looking to other alternatives for its economic wellbeing.
India’s nuclear threat to Sri Lanka
During PM Khan’s recent visit, India’s media has unleashed a disinformation campaign while ignoring the hardcore causes which forced Sri Lanka to lean more towards Pakistan.
For instance, the nuclear threat from India is a much-discussed issue in present-day Sri Lanka, as scientists from the Ministry of Power and Energy have already expressed concerns over the threats and safety issues posed by the two nuclear installations in South India – Kalpakkam and Kudankulam.
Sri Lanka has shown apprehensions on many occasions that the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project will not only pose radiation hazards to Tamil Nadu but also to coastal areas of Sri Lanka.
There are also reports that India has installed Agni Missile system targeting Sri Lanka’s strategic institutions. Among these strategic institutions are, Colombo and Hambanthota Ports, Ratmalana and Mattala Air Ports, Military Headquarters, Puttalam Coal plant, and Kerawalapitiya-Kelanithissa oil-fired Power Plants, etc.
If these concrete threat perceptions accumulate in Sri Lankan strategic thinking, more tilt towards Pakistan for securing legitimate economic and defense benefits, should not be surprising.
Pakistan: a true friend to Sri Lanka
Indian media is creating a phony perception that Pak-Lanka relations are a recently developed phenomenon, contrary to this argument, the two countries have always enjoyed sturdy economic ties and defense collaboration.
Defense procurements for Sri Lanka from Pakistan started on a striking scale, way back in the year 1999. India was reluctant to sign a Defence Cooperation Agreement with Sri Lanka and hesitant to supply small arms, which made Colombo turn to Pakistan gradually.
Pakistan also supplied high-tech weaponry which stopped the progress of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Soon after the defeat of the LTTE, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hussein A. Bhaila of Sri Lanka stated that “the government and the people of Sri Lanka have considered Pakistan as a true friend of Sri Lanka, which has always stood by it in times of need.”
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have always perceived the close collaboration at regional and international fora on issues of mutual interest.
Both countries must realize the full potential of economic ties by further expanding the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. The region could reap the economic benefits by linking Gwadar Port in Pakistan to the Sri Lankan ports.
Both the countries have to work closely to further strengthen their defense ties while enhancing cooperation in diverse fields.