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International Relations

Pakistan statement on Sirisena meeting “breach of diplomatic protocol”

By Arjuna Ranawana

President Maithripala Sirisena dnd Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s visit to Colombo in June/PMD Photo

A “breach of diplomatic protocol” is how senior officials are describing an exchange of statements between the Pakistani High Commission in Sri Lanka and the Presidential Secretariat about a meeting that took place between Islamabad’s envoy in Colombo and the President last Tuesday, 20 Aug, that has left officials with red faces on both sides.

Both the Sri Lankan side and the Pakistani High Commission today refused to comment on the apparently contradictory statements issued by Colombo and Islamabad on the meeting between President Maithripala Sirisena and Pakistani High Commissioner Maj. Gen. (R) Dr. Shahid Ahmad Hashmat.

After the meeting, the Pakistani High Commission issued a statement saying that Gen. Hashmat described the situation arising in Jammu and Kashmir to the President. “He also apprised the President of the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under total lockdown and curfew since 5 August 2019,” it added.

It went on to say that the President “acknowledged that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and expressed his desire that this dispute should be resolved according to wishes of Kashmiris under UN Resolutions. He also offered Sri Lanka’s mediation and facilitation of dialogue between Pakistan and India to re-activate the SAARC forum.”

This is contrary to Sri Lanka’s usually studied and careful neutrality on major issues that plague the Indo-Pak relationship, particularly the Kashmir issue which is at the core of the long-standing disagreement between the neighbours.  

Last night the President issued a statement saying that his attention has been drawn to the Pakistani statement and acknowledged that the envoy had briefed him about the issues arising from the abolition of section 370 of the Indian Constitution regarding the special status of Kashmir and recent developments.

However, the statement made no mention of the President acknowledging Pakistan’s stand instead said: “Sri Lanka has the greatest friendship with both these countries and our desire is achieving regional peace and stability.”

Senior Sri Lankan officials said that the Pakistanis “should have consulted us before releasing their statement, it is clearly a breach of diplomatic protocol.”  

After the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status, Sri Lanka was one of the first SAARC countries to refer to the situation as an internal matter for India.

Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan have taken similar stands on the recent developments in Kashmir, while Nepal and Afghanistan are calling it an Indo-Pak bilateral issue.