KARACHI: The office of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has distanced the head of state from remarks regarding India-held Kashmir as well as mediation offer between Pakistan and India, as mentioned in a press release issued by the Pakistan High Commission in Sri Lanka.

The press release was issued on Wednesday after a meeting between Pakistan High Commissioner retired Maj Gen Dr Shahid Ahmad Hashmat and President Sirisena, which said the latter “had acknowledged that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and expressed his desire that this dispute should be resolved according to wishes of Kashmiris under United Nations resolutions”.

It also said that President Sirisena had offered Sri Lanka’s mediation and facilitation of dialogue between Pakistan and India to reactivate the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) forum.

However, on Thursday, the media office of the Sri Lanka president issued a statement and made no mention of the comments attributed to him in the press release issued by the Pakistan High Commission.

According to the statement, the meeting took place at the request of the high commissioner, during which he briefed the president about the recent developments with regards to India’s abrogation of Section 370 and annulling of Article 35A of the constitution.

“The president gave a patient hearing to the Pakistan High Commissi­oner’s views and stated that both India and Pakistan have excellent friendly relations with Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s interest is to see the growth of regional cooperation and friendship,” added the statement, clarifying: “The president did not make any other comment on the issues pertaining to India and Pakistan.”

Dawn attempted to contact Pakistan’s foreign ministry to seek comment on the statement of the Sri Lankan president. How­ever, the Foreign Office spokesman could not be contacted.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2019