Amidst heightening tensions between India and Pakistan and the future of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) being at stake, Sri Lanka has offered to play the role of honest broker.
The assurance was given by President Maithripala Sirisena when Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua called on him in Colombo last week, diplomatic sources said.
Regretting the cancellation of the 19th SAARC Summit which was to be held in Islamabad last November, after India pulled out accusing Pakistan of cross border terrorism, President Srisena had emphasized the importance of the eight- member grouping. comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh , Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka sticking together for their own sake.
Pakistan has in response accused India of committing human rights violations in Kashmir.
Pointing out the urgent need for the two South Asian giants to resolve their differences in the larger interest of SAARC, Sirisena had observed that it would contribute to both regional stability and economic prosperity.
The President had also assured the visiting Foreign Secretary that his government would campaign for continuity, in keeping with the SAARC Charter, so that the next Summit would be held in Islamabad.
He thanked Pakistan for assisting Sri Lanka during its war with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and for support extended at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Janjua, while assuring continued backing for Sri Lanka, had pledged that economic assistance would be expanded to the livestock and milk production sectors as well.