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Pak thanks Lanka for help in 1971 war

On a day India's top bureaucrats including the foreign secretary and national security advisor reached Colombo for a series of crucial bilateral meetings, Pakistan thanked Sri Lanka for all the help it provided Islamabad during the 1971 war against India. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.
By Sutirtho Patranobis | Hindustan Times, Colombo
UPDATED ON JUN 11, 2011 12:21 AM IST

On a day India's top bureaucrats including the foreign secretary and national security advisor reached Colombo for a series of crucial bilateral meetings, Pakistan thanked Sri Lanka for all the help it provided Islamabad during the 1971 war against India.

Further, Pakistan made it clear that the resolving the dispute over Kashmir was essential for peace in the region.

In her speech addressed to a Lanka-Pakistan business council in Colombo on Friday, Pakistani high commissioner, Seema Ilahi Baloch said that Saarc as a regional group could become more effective for economic development if "we resolve our political issues with India including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir."

"We hope you appreciate that just as Sri Lanka has not compromised on its integral issues of sovereignty, nor can we. We understand that to attain durable peace in our region, the Kashmir dispute must be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with the UN resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people," Baloch said.

Baloch made her remarks as Nirupama Rao, Shiv Shankar Menon and defence secretary, Pradeep Kumar reached Colombo to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other top officials.

Earlier in her speech, Baloch said Sri Lanka's help to Pakistan during the 1971 war could never be forgotten.

"We in Pakistan cannot forget the logistical and political support Sri Lanka extended to us in 1971 when it opened its refueling facilities for us," she said.

During the 1971 war, Pakistani aircraft refueled at the Bandaranaike airport while on way to East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh. Because Pakistani aircraft couldn't fly over India, the planes had to stop here to refuel.

Interestingly, during the same time when Pakistani aircraft were filling their fuel tanks inside the airport, a limited contingent of Indian army troops were deployed to guard airport's periphery against an attack by extreme Left insurgents.

It is widely believed that Indo-Lanka diplomatic relations were considerably soured after Colombo allowed the refueling.

"We have tried to contribute to Sri Lanka's endeavour to achieve peace for its people…," Baloch said.

During the last years of the war against the Tamil Tigers, Pakistan and China were among the top suppliers of arms and ammunition to Sri Lanka.

Baloch also spoke about a signing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Sri Lanka. A similar agreement between India and Sri Lanka has been stalled because of opposition from certain political parties and entrepreneurs.

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