POLICY

 
MUSHARRAF'S PACIFIC VISITS TO OPEN EXTRA-SPORTS AVENUES

 

Australia and New Zealand assure Pakistan of cooperation in socio-economic development

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From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi
 Islamabad

June 27 - July 03, 2005

 

 

The first ever visit by a Pakistani head of the state to Australia and New Zealand undertaken by President Musharraf during the last week in pursuance of "look East" policy of the present government, ended on a positive note. It seems that the President's visits to these countries would be bringing something more to Pakistan than sports like cricket and hockey.

Talking to accompanying newsmen while flying back home after his six-day visit to the Pacific region, Pervez Musharraf described his visit to Australia and New Zealand as extremely successful and vowed to build on recognition of his efforts for world peace to draw investment to Pakistan, facilitate higher education and improve the country's image internationally. The visit has resulted in favourable understanding of our policies, particularly Pakistan's efforts against terror to make the world a safer place to live, he said and added, both the Australian and New Zealand leadership have assured of their cooperation in the socio-economic development of Pakistan. "So it was a successful visit from all accounts - political, diplomatic and economic," he remarked.

The President said it is his earnest desire to translate the acknowledgment of his efforts for world peace into Pakistan's achievements in the field of economy and education.

"My endeavours are geared to use the goodwill and international acceptance of our counter-terror role for attracting foreign investment for sustained high growth and poverty reduction. "I will also focus on facilitating higher education for the new generation. At the same time, I will strive to use the goodwill to bolster Pakistan's image, as we are a victim of misperceptions, while we are a moderate and progressive country.

"I am glad that this is happening as the world is perceptive and responsive to our actions against terrorism, focus on socio-economic development and our tackling the malaise of extremism," said the President, who was paid rich tributes by both the Prime Ministers John Howard and Helen Clark of Australia and New Zealand, respectively.

During the visit, both Australia and New Zealand agreed to offer 700 post-graduate scholarships to Pakistani students in their institutions of higher learning. "This is a breakthrough for our younger generation," he said, adding: New Zealand has agreed to explore ways for extending cooperation in dairy farming, livestock farming, agriculture research, yield intensification and food and fruit processing. "This will be a great stride towards reducing poverty in rural areas, where 70 percent of the country's population lives.

Commenting on Australian Prime Minster Howard's conforming to his views for greater trade between the industrialized nations and the developing countries, the President said it is a matter of satisfaction that the world has recognized Pakistan's call for adopting a strategy of enlightened moderation.

 

 

Pakistan has clearly impressed upon the world that it is working for world peace. I believe that the international community is responding positively to the strategy of enlightened moderation under which the West has to resolve political disputes affecting the Muslims with justice and the Muslim countries have to reject extremism for their socio-economic development," Musharraf said.

Talks between President Musharraf and Prime Minster John Howard led the two countries sign MoU for strengthening counter terrorism ties and cooperating in agriculture and commerce. In view of the importance given to the visit by President Musharraf the groundwork for the trip to Australia, the fist of its kind by any Pakistani head of state, was completed well in advance by Foreign Minster Khursheed Kasuri.

Australia is important to Islamabad for the former has close ties with America, particularly after it became a part of the US-led coalition against terrorism. Winning over Mr. Howard is also important because Australia is an active member of the Commonwealth.

President Musharraf also used the visit to promote his image as a man of peace despite being a general by floating the radical proposal of autonomy for Kashmir and dropping the demand for referendum leading to Valley's freedom from India.

Australia has rich experience in modern agriculture while Pakistan, where majority of the population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture, has yet to come out of backward farming practices and realize the potential for agro-based industries. The MoU for establishing agriculture sector linkages programme is thus welcome as it could help Pakistan learn from Australia's vast experience, provided this is not followed blindly. To take just one example there are many who think that corporate farming practiced in developed countries might not suit Pakistan where it is likely to benefit a few while displacing thousands of people and pushing them down the poverty line. The $ 6.6 million assistance programme is welcome, as it would allow Pakistani researchers to be trained in Australia. What is needed is to improve the working of institutions involved in agricultural research like Faisalabad Agricultural University. Most of these have declined over the years for failure to attract the best talent, lack of funding and proper planning.

In Auckland President Musharraf held exhaustive discussion with Prime Minister Halen Clark of New Zealand. The two leaders exchanged views on increasing cooperation in areas of interest to both countries. They focused on cooperation in the field of agriculture, education and primary healthcare during two days of talks and also explored avenues for promotion of bilateral trade and business.

Later, addressing a gathering of Pakistani expatriates, President Musharraf said the New Zealand Prime Minster has accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan in near future. "We have had excellent talks and I am confident that Pakistan-New Zealand relationship will gain momentum in the years ahead, as we look forward to benefiting from the country's sophisticated expertise in dairy and livestock farming, he said.