Context: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka shows that ties between the two countries are deeper.

Significance of Pakistan Sri lanka relations

  • Defence ties 
    • After pulling back of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1990, Sri Lanka turned to Pakistan for arms and ammunition, as well as training for its fighter pilots, in the last stages of the war. 
    • Sri Lankan military officers come visit both India and Pakistan for training.
    • Sri Lanka participated in Pakistan’s multi-nation naval exercise, Aman-21.
  • Trade: Pakistan is Sri Lanka’s second largest trading partner in South Asia after India. 
    • Sri Lanka and Pakistan have a free trade agreement. 
  • Cultural: Pakistan has also tried to work on a cultural connect with Sri Lanka by highlighting its ancient Buddhist connections and sites.
  • Neighbourhood friends
  • Sri Lanka is facing resolution against it at the UN Human Rights Commission for withdrawing from resolution 30/1 of September 2015, under which it committed to carry out war crimes investigations.
  • The Islamic world has opposed Sri Lanka’s tight rules for disposal of bodies of Muslims who have died of Covid-19. Burials are not allowed; all bodies must be cremated. 
  • Muslims constitute about 11 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population, and there are tense relations with the Sinhala Buddhist majority.

Concerns for India

  • CPEC: Pakistan wants to “take advantage” of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor to enhance trade ties.
  • Radicalisation: The Indian security establishment has voiced concerns about Pakistan’s role in the radicalisation of Muslims in Eastern Sri Lanka. and the effect this could have in India.
  • Indian ocean: A convergence of interests between Sri Lanka, China, and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean region and in defence co-operation. 
  • Colombo port: India is already concerned about Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from a tripartite agreement (along with Japan) for the development of the East Container Terminal at Colombo port.
  • Pakistan’s influence: The visit signalled that despite India’s best efforts at “isolating” Pakistan, Islamabad has friends in the neighbourhood.