COLOMBO: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, while inviting the Sri Lankan businessmen to invest in Pakistan, said trade connectivity among the countries of the Asian subcontinent was vital for poverty alleviation.
Addressing the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference held here which he jointly chaired with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, Imran Khan proposed establishing trade links as existed among the European countries which he said could prove beneficial for the prosperity of the Asian subcontinent.
Imran Khan and Mahinda Rajapaksa led their business delegations at the conference held in a bid to explore avenues of collaboration in diverse fields.
The prime minister, who is in Colombo on a two-day official visit, said political stability in the region by maintaining good relations with neighbouring countries ensured business-friendly environment that resulted in an overall development of the people.
He said Pakistan and Sri Lanka could explore the idea of generating wealth through joint business activities and diverting the wealth to alleviate poverty.
Imran Khan asked the Sri Lankan businessmen to explore the immense opportunities offered by the government of Pakistan in the form of ease-of-doing business.
He said his government would welcome and facilitate investment from the island nation.
The prime minister said that as Pakistan and Sri Lanka both suffered the brunt of terrorism in the past, their journey together towards development could make a difference.
He expressed intent for Pakistan to learn from Sri Lanka’s advanced tourism industry and said that he made the tourism minister part of his delegation to explore the area.
Imran Khan said Pakistan had a lot of undiscovered sites of religious tourism including the Gandhara civilization and trails of Buddhism, adding that a recently discovered 40-foot-long Sleeping Buddha could be of special interest for Sri Lankan tourists. He said joining the Belt and Road Initiative could open up new avenues for Sri Lanka with an opportunity to connect from Gwadar up to the Central Asian states.
He expressed his satisfaction over the professional emergence of the Sri Lankan cricket team that had won the World Cup at Lahore. In an effort to maintain good relations with neighbouring states, Imran Khan recalled his offer to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute.
To encourage trade ties with the neighbours, he said, "Maintaining amiable relations and living like civilized nations must be a priority."
Imran Khan emphasized that with 1.3 billion people, the South Asian region needed to resolve its mutual conflicts through dialogue for sustainable prosperity.
He said Pakistan could also play a part in reducing tensions between the United States and China for the ultimate benefit of people across the continents.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said with Free Trade Agreement in place, Pakistan and Sri Lanka could exploit the potential of enhanced trade. In line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, he said Pakistan was ensuring ease-of-doing business particularly in housing and real estate sector to promote growth.
“We want to make Pakistan an economic hub with focus on peace, development and activity,” he said, adding that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would lead towards prosperity for the entire region.
He invited the Sri Lankan businessmen to explore and benefit from the business opportunities offered by the government of Pakistan. Adviser to Prime Minister Abdul Razak Dawood said the existing trade volume between Pakistan and Sri Lanka did not commensurate their friendly relations and thus needed a thrust in their bilateral economic strategies. He expressed confidence that close collaboration between the businessmen and investors of Pakistan and Sri Lanka could contribute to the stability of economic indicators.
The Sri Lankan state minister for commerce said Pakistan and Sri Lanka could cooperate to fill the resource gap keeping in view their friendly relations.
He proposed joint collaboration between industries of the two countries, besides engagement at people-to-people level in the field of education and health.