In late March, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena was in Pakistan for a three-day visit that included attending the country’s Republic Day celebrations as the guest of honor, a sign of deepening ties between the two South Asian nations. The visit was seen as an attempt to build on defense cooperation that has been especially strong since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war. In an email interview, Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, discusses bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Pakistan and how Sri Lanka fits into Pakistan’s regional foreign policy.
WPR: What is the state of Pakistan’s ties with Sri Lanka? What issues do they view as mutually important?
Michael Kugelman: Pakistan-Sri Lanka ties occupy a relatively stable middle ground on the hierarchy of diplomatic relationships in Asia. They’re not nearly as deep and long-standing as those of China and Pakistan, or Japan and India, and nowhere near as fraught as those of India and Pakistan, or Afghanistan and Pakistan. In effect, relations are in a good place, but they would never be mistaken for a deep partnership.