Colombo: - Dr. Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, Acting Minister of Finance and Chief Adviser to President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Infrastructure, Human Capital, and Technology, met with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today. The President warmly welcomed the visiting Minister and Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari at his residence, as the two sides discussed a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues of common interest and concern.
Minister Qayoumi conveyed the warm regards of President Ghani to President Rajapaksa and extended to him an invitation to visit Afghanistan. He also congratulated him on assuming the presidency of Sri Lanka, following his electoral victory last November, which the President appreciated. Minister Qayoumi highlighted the growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka ties and noted that there is much potential to be realized to further deepen the two countries’ relations. In doing so, he emphasized the importance of establishing direct air connectivity between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, starting with a weekly flight to operate between Colombo-Kabul-Mumbai-Colombo to meet the increasing demand for both transporting passengers and goods to and from the two countries.
President Rajapaksa welcomed the Minister’s proposal, which he said he would instruct the Chairman of the Sri Lankan Airlines to consider for implementation. Minister Qayoumi appreciated the support of the President, as he highlighted the key Afghan goods—including fresh fruits, dried nuts, precious and semi-precious stones, and certain rare earth minerals—with high demand in Sri Lanka, which could be exported to the Sri Lankan markets once the air corridor was in place. He particularly pointed out Afghanistan’s demand for tourism, medical tourism, and higher education tourism in Sri Lanka, as well as employment of Sri Lankan skilled labor, which could be facilitated as soon as air connectivity were established between the two countries. Indeed, this would greatly contribute to the economic growth of Sri Lanka, while helping Afghanistan address its short-term quality medical and higher education needs.
Moreover, the two sides exchanged views on bilateral and regional cooperation through generation, transmission, and consumption of electricity, as Central Asia is blessed with an abundance of power, which could be shared with South Asia to meet its increased electricity needs. The Minister also discussed this on a panel discussion hosted by the World Bank in Colombo this weekend, highlighting ways Afghanistan and Sri Lanka could collaborate.
Finally, Ambassador Haidari recalled his last meeting with President Rajapaksa, pointing out opportunities for bilateral security and defense cooperation, including opportunities to learn from Sri Lanka’s war-to-peace-transition experience. In this regard, Minister Qayoumi noted that Afghanistan’s peace process could benefit from Sri Lanka’s insights into successful programs of reconciliation, reintegration of former combatants, as well as ongoing peace-building work. President Rajapaksa offered his full support for initiating bilateral defense cooperation to share with Afghanistan their relevant experiences and military expertise, including in the areas of counterterrorism, mine clearance, counter-narcotics, as well as rehabilitation of former fighters.
Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa
The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka:
On behalf of the people of Afghanistan, please allow me to extend to Your Excellency and your nation my sincere congratulations and best wishes on the 72nd Anniversary of the Independence Day of the friendly country of Sri Lanka.
In the spirit of results-driven cooperation, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have taken major steps towards further expanding the friendly, bilateral relations that exist between our two countries. I am confident that the active presence of the diplomatic representatives of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in each other’s capitals and our ongoing collaboration at the regional and international organizations will further contribute to the growing, friendly Afghanistan-Sri Lanka ties.
Expressing my happiness and satisfaction with the level of expanding cooperation between our two countries, I wish Your Excellency fine health and further success, and the friendly people of Sri Lanka continued peace, prosperity, and progress.
Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Kabul – Afghanistan
February 2, 2020
Read a recent article by Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari on "Afghanistan-Sri Lanka: Natuaral Partners in Democracy and Development."
Ambassador Haidari highlighted President Ashraf Ghani's vision of win-win cooperation against confrontation, which underpins the Afghan foreign policy, promoting regional security and development cooperation to address jointly the challenges facing South Asia.
In this regard, he extended to the Secretary General-Designate the full support of the Government of Afghanistan, including the Afghan Embassy in Colombo, as he would soon assume office to help revitalize SAARC as a regional grouping -- enabling it to realize its vision and core mission objectives.
Ambassador Haidari congratulated Ambassador Weerakoon on his appointment, while sharing with him one of his recent articles on the role SAARC can play in securing South Asia thru regional economic integration.
Ambassador Haidari welcomed these steps taken by the new Chairman and offered him full support. Chairman Afghan also informed the Ambassador of the SAARC Non Violence Day to be celebrated in Afghanistan in October, as well as the SAARC Archaeology and Heritage Management Training Workshop in the country in September. He highlighted his Ministry's preparedness to host delegations from the member-states for these amd future events organized by the SAARC Cultural Center based in Colombo.
In doing so, Ambassador Haidari offered him the full support of the Afghan Embassy in Colombo and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul -- which he appreciated.
Colombo: - The newly appointed Ambassador of Turkey to Sri Lanka R. Demet Sekercioglu called on Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari today, who warmly welcomed and congratulated her on her new assignment, today. They discussed the strong, friendly Afghanistan-Turkey ties, which they said would underpin their collaboration in Colombo.
Colombo: - On January 22, 2020, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari joined HE Chamal Rajapaksa, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Rural Development of Sri Lanka, to attend the 11th Meeting of SAARC Food Bank Board. Afghan delegate Ghulam Hazrat Halimi of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) accompanied the Ambassador in the closing of the 2-day Meeting, which discussed the importance of fully operationalizing the SAARC Food Bank to ensure regional cooperation on food security as a common issue of interest and concern to all member-states.
Ambassador Haidari thanked HE Minister Rajapaksa for hosting the Meeting and highlighted the importance of enhanced bilateral cooperation in #agriculture and rural development between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. They agreed that regular exchange of skilled farmers and agriculture experts among the SAARC member-states would help ensure food security throughout the region.
In his recent article on "Securing South Asia Through Regional Economic Integration," Ambassador Haidari discusses the critical role SAARC can play in fostering regional economic cooperation, including collaboration on food security as a common need across the region.
In this light, the Ambassador briefed HE President Rajapaksa on the status of Afghanistan-Sri Lanka bilateral ties, noting the importance of implementing the MOUs and agreements signed by the two countries, as well as finalizing and signing the pending and proposed MOUs and agreements that cover such areas as political consultations; defense cooperation; connectivity for trade and investment; rural development and water management; skills development; as well as tourism. The Ambassador also briefed HE President Rajapaksa on his recent provincial visits, promoting the establishment of ties between Afghanistan-Sri Lanka provinces and major cities, including a sister-city relationship between Kabul and Kandy.
HE President Rajapaksa shared with Ambassador Haidari some of his country’s war-to-peace-transition experiences for lessons to be learned for Afghanistan’s continued efforts to end the war and achieve sustainable peace. The Ambassador welcomed this, which he said HE President Ghani had also discussed with Sri Lankan Ambassador to Afghanistan Gagan Bulathsinghala, expressing Afghanistan’s interest in learning relevant lessons from Sri Lanka in peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes.
Both sides agreed on the need to further expand bilateral relations, as Ambassador Haidari requested HE President Gotabaya to consider visiting Afghanistan whenever his schedule allows this year, which the President welcomed.
Read Ambassador Haidari's article on "Afghanistan-Sri Lanka: Natural Partners in Democracy and Development."
HE Prime Minister Rajapaksa greatly appreciated the congratulatory messages from Afghanistan’s leadership, including a congratulatory message from HE Former President Hamid Karzai, which he said is a manifestation of the close and fast-growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka bilateral relations. HE Prime Minister Rajapaksa and Ambassador Haidari reviewed the implementation status of the MOUs and agreements signed by the two sides so far, highlighting numerous opportunities for bilateral cooperation—covering security and defense; business and investment; institutional capacity building; cultural cooperation and deepening people-to-people ties through enhanced connectivity via sea and air.
Taking note of the fact that it was under his presidency in 2013 when Afghanistan and Sri Lanka elevated their diplomatic ties to resident level, opening Embassies in Kabul and Colombo, HE Prime Minister Rajapaksa offered his full and strong support for the implementation of all signed agreements. He was glad to know from Ambassador Haidari that both sides had worked on a number of new agreements and MOUs to be finalized by both sides for signature. In this light, Ambassador Haidari requested the Prime Minister to consider visiting Afghanistan in the New Year, which he welcomed to do so sometime after March.
Read Ambassador Haidari's article on "Afghanistan-Sri Lanka: Natural Partners in Democracy and Development."
Kandy: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari paid a visit to Geragama Tea Factory and plantation in Kandy on December 06, 2019 to see how they process and produce tea.
Afghanistan is a major tea-drinking nation in the world, which welcomes direct export of quality tea from Sri Lanka. In his upcoming meetings with the Sri Lankan chambers of commerce and major tea exporters, the Ambassador will continue exploring export opportunities. He has encouraged Afghan businesses to visit Sri Lanka and consider entering into joint ventures with Sri Lankan exporters to bring the country's quality tea to Afghanistan.
Ambassador Haidari Speaks at the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Commemoration of the SAARC Charter Day
They reflected on the vision of the founders of SAARC when they established this much needed regional grouping to cooperate in good faith for the common peace, prosperity, and welfare of the entire region with 24% (1.8 billion) population of the whole world. Ambassador Haidari highlighted the key obstacles that continue preventing South Asia from realizing its many potentials that must be harnessed for the sustainable development of the whole region.
In this light, the Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process as an Afghan-led initiative encourages regional cooperation against confrontation, which Ambassador Haidari discusses in his recent article on "Securing South Asia Through Regional Economic Integration."