Pakistan Plays Buddhism Card to Woo Lanka
COLOMBO: Following India, Pakistan is using its ancient Buddhist heritage to establish a special relationship with Sri Lanka.
“There is a rich ancient Buddhist heritage in Pakistan which has immense value for developing tourism between Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” said Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.
Sirisena concluded his three visit to Pakistan on Tuesday during which six agreements were signed. One of them was the recommencement of flights to Colombo by the Pakistan International Airlines to promote tourism and people to people contact.
During the visit, the Pakistani hosts took President Sirisena to Taxila where a relic of the Buddha and some artifacts of the Gandhara era of Buddhism are kept.
Unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan, no Pakistani Islamic militant group has attacked Buddhist sites including Buddha’s statues, to date. When Seema Baloch was High Commissioner of Pakistan in Colombo, she had brought one of the relics of the Buddha to Sri Lanka for public display in the way India displayed the Kapilavastu relics.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have signed an agreement to open the door to the Pakistani pharma, cement and IT sectors in Lanka. However, there is nothing concrete in the agreements to bridge the trade gap. Lanka accounts for only US$ 84 million of the US$ 460 million two way trade despite the existence of a Free Trade Agreement since 2005.
Pakistan and Lanka have pledged to cooperate in international fora, including SAARC and UNHRC, and also to support each other’s candidates for international posts.