COLOMBO (Sri Lanka) – Pakistan and Sri Lanka have signed an agreement under which the former would sale eight JF-17 Thunder aircraft to the latter in the initial stage despite Indian pressure.
The agreement is part of several memorandum of understanding (MoUs)inked between Pakistan and Sri Lanka during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three-day visit to the island earlier today.
The multi-roll fighter aircraft is the joint production of Pakistan and China.
Defence officials accompanying the prime minister said that both countries signed eight agreements related to defence, security, anti-terrorism, trade and science and technology and Pakistan would provide eight JF-17 fighter jets to Sri Lanka at the first phase.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena were present at the ceremony of signing agreements.
Speaking on the occasion, Nawaz said that Pakistan was ready to give Sri Lanka the most favoured nation (MFN) status in trade. He said that there were vast opportunities for bilateral trade and its quantum should be taken to one billion dollars annually.
He said that Pakistan was cooperating with Sri Lanka in defence sector and the two countries would work together to choke financial assistance to terrorists. He said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka were intended to strengthen bilateral relations as they had unanimity of views on the international and regional issues. He said that his visit was reflective of close relationship between the two sides.
On this occasion, Sri Lankan President said that his country enjoys close relationship with Pakistan and Sri Lankan people acknowledged Pakistan’s role in promotion of bilateral ties between the two countries. He said that the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has created political stability in Pakistan.
Later, addressing a seminar on Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations at the Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies in Colombo, the prime minister urged all regional countries to enhance their literacy rate and overcome diseases, poverty and malnutrition. “We should also strengthen our bonds of trust for resolution of these problems,” he said.
He said that both the countries enjoy commonality of views on international issues and Sri Lanka was the first country entered into a free-trade agreement with Pakistan.
He called for greater parliamentary exchanges between the two countries to learn from each other’s experiences. He said that Pakistan desired to enhance its maritime relations with Sri Lanka and looking forward for increased engagements between the two countries and Pakistan would continue to provide training facilities to the armed forces of Sri Lanka.
About relations with India, the prime minister said that he would be remained committed to promoting peace and stability in the region. “The foreign secretaries of the two countries are meeting within the next few days to determine the modalities of the dialogue process,” he said.
He also said that Pakistan had consistently supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and would continue to do so in future for the sake of regional peace.
It is believed that India had warned Sri Lanka against dealing with Pakistan, urging it to procure its fighter jets instead, according to highly placed diplomatic sources.
Without naming anyone, they said two Indian high-ups had threatened a Sri Lankan official over the telephone to not sign the aircraft deal with Pakistan. Failing to do so, they warned, India would cancel the $400 million loan for Colombo port city project.