Finance Minister Qayoumi Meets President Rajapaksa, Discusses Air Connectivity for Trade
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.