CHICAGO: Australia will provide over 200 million dollars in financial assistance to Pakistan during the next three years under the Australia-Pakistan Development Partnership Program. This was revealed during a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
President Zardari welcomed Australia's enhanced assistance in the fields of education, agriculture and vocational training as the two leaders met on the sidelines of a two-day Nato summit.
According to Presidential spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar, during the meeting, President Zardari called for a further enhancement of economic and trade ties between Pakistan and Australia.
“Australia is an important country and an important development partner of Pakistan”, the president said.
Regional situation and the fight against militancy also came under discussion during the meeting.
President Zardari said that Pakistan was looking towards a long term economic engagement in the region for fighting militancy and for this purpose would not allow its soil to be used for any subversive activity against any other country. At the same time, he said Pakistan hoped that the soil of other countries would not be used against it.
In this connection, the president also referred to Pakistan’s unanimously passed parliamentary resolution outlining guidelines for the nation's foreign policy.
He said that with a view to building on long term economic engagement, the new transit trade agreement with Afghanistan had been finalised.
He said that in his talks with President Hamid Karzai Sunday morning, an agreement had been reached to extend the transit trade agreement to other countries beyond Afghanistan in the region. Economic development in border areas would help address the problems of militancy and terrorism, he said.
The president said Pakistan believed that peace and stability in Afghanistan were central to peace and stability in Pakistan and that Pakistan supported every effort aiming towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
He said the militants had been created by the international community as a war weapon to defeat the rival ideology but when the war was won the international community left Pakistan alone to handle the problem alone. He said it was the responsibility of the entire international community to now help Pakistan in overcoming this challenge.
Australian cooperation in the fields of education and agriculture also figured in the talks as President Zardari emphasised that the international community needed to strengthen educational infrastructure in the country to fight the militant mindset.
Farhatullah Babar said Australia was currently supporting two major projects in the education sector in Pakistan. One project in the field of primary education was being implemented in four districts of Balochistan under the provincial government and the Unicef.
Under the second program called Australian Development scholarships, Australia provides scholarships to Pakistani students every year to study at Masters level in Australia. During the past few years, over 500 scholarships have been made available to Pakistani students for post graduate studies in Australia, he said.
President Zardari also thanked the Australian Prime Minister for Australia's assistance to the flood victims in Pakistan.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her country would remain engaged with Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest and keep up assistance in education, agriculture and other areas.