South Asia

Sri Lanka cancels Imran Khan’s address to its parliament.

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Sri Lanka has canceled a planned address to its Parliament by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan next week, sparking speculation in political and diplomatic circles. The reason for the same as per officials of the Sri Lankan government is that the cancellation has been done due to the tight schedule of Imran Khan on his official visit to the island nation, leaving no time to for the same in his demanding itinerary. There were also reports that a full attendance for the parliamentary address would not have been possible due to the social distancing restrictions. Most analysts in Sri Lanka have called the visit ill-timed due to the rising corona cases in the island nation.

Analysts familiar with the geopolitical situations of Sri Lanka are seeing this as a move by the Sri Lankan government to maintain ties with India.
It was being speculated that Khan would raise the Kashmir issue during his speech, which could have upset Delhi. Imran Khan has a habit of parroting lies on the Kashmir issue whenever he is presented with a global platform, especially since the Indian Government’s decision to scrap Article 370 in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.

ANI has quoted a Sri Lankan newspaper saying that the move may also have been an effort to ensure Imran Khan isn’t granted parity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had addressed the country’s Parliament in 2015. Sri Lankan newspaper- Express cited unnamed sources as saying 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, which have already been strained after the cancellation of a deal over the East Container Terminal in Colombo port.

Sri Lanka’s Speaker Mahinda Abeywardena had told leaders of political parties during a meeting last week that Khan would address the Parliament during his two-day visit beginning on February 22. The address was scheduled for February 24, and Khan is scheduled to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena during the visit.

Spokesperson at the Pakistani High Commission in Colombo tried to downplay it through an official statement “The PM’s address in [Sri Lankan] Parliament was not confirmed in the first place, it was being discussed.” However, Sri Lanka’s Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had told a party leaders’ meeting earlier this month that Khan would be addressing the House. The matter was included in the minutes of that meeting.”

Another speculation doing the rounds is that the Sri Lankan government was concerned about Khan speaking about the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka, who have faced abuses at the hands of the Buddhist majority, rising anti-Muslim sentiments, and biased government actions.

The last foreign leader to address Sri Lanka’s Parliament was Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. The current Indian dispensation has not only been successfull in countering the propaganda of Pakistan on various world platforms but has aslo managed to isolate it geopolitcally.

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