Pakistan urges Sri Lanka to activate SAARC over Bay of Bengal trade area

ECONOMYNEXT – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had urged Sri Lanka to help rejuvenate the moribund South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation rather than focussing on a Bay of Bengal economic area, during a meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a report said.

A SAARC summit meeting in Islamabad was de-railed after India pulled out and other countries including Sri Lanka followed suit.

In recent months, Sri Lanka has been pushing for a ‘Bay of Bengal’ logistics hub incorporating Sri Lanka, several eastern states of India and Burma, which had historically been a vibrant hub until economic nationalism after independence from British rule stalled activity.

Sri Lanka has also invited India, Japan and Singapore to invest in the Eastern Trincomalee port.

Sharif had "attached great importance to SAARC and was fully committed to the principles and objectives of the SAARC Charter," an Associated Press of Pakistan report said following meeting with Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"He mentioned that Pakistan believed that SAARC could not be replaced by BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation)."

A statement from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s office said Sri Lanka was keen to conclude a free trade deal with Pakistan and strengthen bilateral ties.

He had also briefed Sharif on Sri Lanka’s plan to make Colombo a hub in the Bay of Bengal.
 

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