Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s planned address in his upcoming visit to Sri Lanka has been cancelled by the Sri Lankan Parliament on Thursday.
According to speculations, Khan would have raised the Kashmir issue during his speech, which could have upset India.
Local media reports from Sri Lanka stated that giving an opportunity to Khan could have been implied as giving Khan parity to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, so the planned speech was cancelled.
Imran Khan is scheduled to travel to Colombo on a two-day trip from February 22. He was to address the Sri Lankan parliament on February 24.
He will also meet Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and attend an investors’ conference.
Imran’s speech was added at the request of the Pakistan government. However, it was later cancelled, according to Sri Lankan media. Sri Lankan media have cited different reasons for the cancellation of Khan’s address.
Sri Lanka’s daily Express quoted Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage as having said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had requested for cancellation on the pretext of COVID-19.
However, the same newspaper 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.
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.