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Pak PM Imran Khan to arrive in Sri Lanka for talks on trade, defence

This is the first visit by a Pakistan prime minister to Sri Lanka since 2016

imran reuters Pakistan PM Imran Khan | Reuters

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will hold wide-ranging talks with Sri Lankan leaders on various issues such as trade, defence and technology during his one-day visit to the island nation.

Khan, who is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Tuesday evening, will hold deliberations with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa. He will meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday, the foreign ministry has confirmed.

The bilateral talks are expected to focus on various sectors including trade, investment, health, education, agriculture, technology, defence and tourism. 

This is the first visit by a Pakistan prime minister to Sri Lanka since Nawaz Sharif visited the country in 2016.

Khan's last visit to Sri Lanka was in 1986 when he was the captain of Pakistan cricket team during the acrimonious Test series where he accused the local umpires of bias.

Khan's visit coincides the current controversy over the forced cremations of the island's minority Muslim community members who die due to the COVID-19. The government continues its policy of forced cremations despite objections from rights groups.

Khan congratulated Sri Lanka earlier this month when Prime Minister Mahinda made a comment in parliament that burials would be allowed for Muslim victims of COVID-19. However, the decision is yet to be implemented.

International rights group Amnesty International in an open letter to Khan had urged him to take up the issue of forced cremations with Sri Lankan leaders during his visit. 

We urge you to raise this issue of forced cremations at the highest levels possible during your visit to Sri Lanka, in solidarity with a minority community who has been stripped of any means of recourse. We urge you to call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to stop forced cremations and to bring to an end discrimination faced by the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, the letter said.

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