Colombo: Pakistan on Tuesday sealed a landmark deal to sell JF-17 Thunder fighter jets to Sri Lanka as the two countries signed eight agreements to boost cooperation in areas like trade promotion, and science and technology besides combating money laundering and terror financing.
On the second day of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Colombo, Pakistan agreed to sell eight aircraft to Sri Lanka, in the first successful deal to sell the jets which Pakistan has been trying to sell for some time.
JF-17 Thunder is already part of Pakistan Air Force and has been successfully used to strike terrorist hideouts in northwestern tribal region.
Initially, the jets were manufactured with Chinese technical assistance but now it is solely done in Pakistan, according to a Geo TV report that claimed the deal has been finalised despite pressure from India which was forcing Colombo to buy Indian aircraft.
The deal was reached during the three-day trip of Sharif to Colombo that also saw the two sides signing eight agreements in the fields of education, science and technology, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, sporting contacts, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts.
Sharif said both sides expressed their satisfaction at the existing bilateral cooperation in the field of defence. He conveyed his desire for more frequent port calls, participation in military exercises and fence seminars and training of military personnel.
“We have also signed a number of agreements and MoUs today, which would help promote cooperation between our two countries in the fields Trade promotion, Culture, Health, Gem and Jewellery, Science & Technology and Combating Money Laundering and Terror Financing," Sharif said at the official ceremony to welcome him by Sirisena. His trip comes eight months after President Sirisena’s visit to Pakistan in April last year.
Sharif also invited Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to make a return visit to Pakistan at an early date so that the relations of mutual trust and confidence can be further enhanced.
Islamabad and Colombo grew closer during Lanka’s civil war by supplying arms to fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who sought an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.
Describing Sri Lanka as a “strong and steadfast friend" of Pakistan that has “stood by us in our most difficult moments", Sharif said: “We remain eternally grateful to the people and government of this beautiful Island State."
The two countries also agreed to re-invigorate efforts to realise the goal of achieving $1 billion bilateral trade target at the earliest from the present $325 million that “does not reflect true potential".