Sri Lanka
A child is presenting a flower bouquet to Chamal Rajapaksa, Speaker of Parliament of Sri Lanka on his arrival at Benazir International Airport. – Photo by APP

KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari has offered soft-term credit facility to Sri Lanka for importing Pakistani sugar and cement plants.

The offer was made during a meeting between a parliamentary delegation of Sri Lanka and the president at the Governor’s House here on Monday.

The credit facility was also discussed during President Zardari’s recent visit to Sri Lanka, where he called for setting up joint ventures to enhance bilateral trade.

The president asked Pakistani entrepreneurs to invest in Sri Lanka and urged Colombo to provide incentives to them. He stressed the need for exchange of visits by gem and stone cutting experts of the two countries.

Mr Zardari called for increasing import of tea from Sri Lanka and said that bilateral trade should be done in local currency. He said Pakistan could train officers of Sri Lankan police and intelligence agencies.

Chamal Jayantha Rajapakse, Speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament and head of the delegation, said his country appreciated Pakistan’s role in war against terrorism and militancy.

Sri Lanka is the first country Pakistan has signed a free trade agreement with. The two countries have agreed to increase bilateral trade from the present $400 million to $2 billion by 2012.

The Sri Lankan delegation also included Minister for Disaster Management Mohammad Fowzie Abdul Hameed.

Senate Chairman Farooq H. Naek, National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza and Board of Investment Chairman Saleem Mandviwala attended the meeting.

CHINESE YOUTH TEAM: The president said that relations between China and Pakistan could be a force multiplier in the 21st century.

“We want to take advantage of the opportunity emerging in the two countries. Pakistan’s geographic location offers shortest sea access to the landlocked countries of Central and West Asia, including China,” he said while speaking to a delegation of Chinese youths at the Governor’s House.

“Pakistan has many friends, but China is the only dependable friend and our friendship with it is time-tested and has endured changes at the regional and global level.”

Mr Zardari said that successive governments in Pakistan led by different political parties and leaders had contributed to strengthening this relationship, adding the friendship was beyond party politics.

He said Pakistan and China together could greatly contribute to the region’s economic development.