In yet another embarrassment for Pakistani PM Imran Khan, Sri Lanka has cancelled Khan’s address to the country’s parliament amidst mounting fears that Khan true to his characteristics will rake up the issue of Kashmir – something which will not go down well with India with the island country in no mood irk India.
Imran Khan’s tenure as Pakistan’s PM will not be known for his governance but for the series of embarrassments and acting as an irritant in international forums by constantly raising the issue of Kashmir.
Now in yet another embarrassment, as Imran Khan prepares to arrive at Sri Lanka, the island country’s government has cancelled his planned address to the parliament as it seeks to safeguard India’s interests.
Sri Lanka doesn’t want to risk upsetting India as Khan would unsurprisingly raise the issue of Kashmir during his address to the parliament.
According to local press, “giving an opportunity to the Pakistani prime minister could have been implied as giving Khan parity to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, so the planned speech was cancelled,” reported Sri Lankan ‘Express’.
It comes as no surprise that Khan’s planned speech at the Sri Lankan parliament was included in the itinerary at the behest of the Pakistani government and wasn’t a result of the island country’s proactiveness.
While Sri Lankan ‘Express’ reported that the official reason for the cancellation of the address is the threat of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, citing unnamed sources, the publication claimed that, “there were elements within the Sri Lankan government, who did not want the speech to take place as they feared that doing so could further harm ties with India.”
Dawn reported that another concern of the Sri Lankan government was that Khan would speak about the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka as they are facing abuse from the Buddhist majority population amidst rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the island country.
Recently, just when it seemed like Sri Lanka has started mending its ways by adhering more and more to the Indian side and decoupling itself from the Chinese clutches, came another decision which showed that Colombo is yet to be trusted fully by New Delhi. According to media reports, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa cabinet cancelled the trilateral Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) project between Sri Lanka, Japan, and India. The East terminal will now be 100 per cent owned and operated by the state-owned Sri Lanka Port Authority (SLPA).
Colombo had previously stated that the port would be 49 per cent operated by India and Japan, with SLPA retaining the majority stake. The said agreement was first signed by the former Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe administration. Instead, the two countries will now be invited to develop the nearby West terminal on a public-private partnership basis.
Colombo is perhaps aware of the fact that due to this move, New Delhi is already irked and by cancelling Khan’s address it wants to placate India and not risk further upsetting the country. Colombo realises that India can make life tough for Sri Lanka, isolating the tiny island nation, geo-politically and on the economic front and hence, it is playing it safe and monkey balancing between China and India.