ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) are close to initiating a bilateral strategic dialogue.
This was stated by Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa while addressing a press conference along with his host, Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, after the first edition of the Pak-Bahrain Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC).
Bahrain currently holds the presidency of the GCC, the union of six oil-rich Gulf states.
“We are trying to put in the right frameworks and mechanisms for Pak-GCC ties. I will work with my GCC brothers to start the strategic dialogue between the GCC and Pakistan. GCC countries are keen for this to happen,” he said.
Bahraini foreign minister says efforts under way to put in the right frameworks and mechanisms for Pak-GCC ties
The strategic dialogue, he said, would cover defence, security and economic cooperation in addition to political consultations.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the JMC, Mr Aziz said: “Establishment of a structured mechanism like Pakistan-GCC strategic forum would provide an opportunity for regular consultations and cooperation in various fields, particularly close coordination in intelligence sharing and counterterrorism, war on drugs, economic and trade sectors and other areas of mutual interest.”
Pakistan and the GCC had in March 2011, following their Joint Ministerial Meeting on Strategic Dialogue, signed a memorandum of understanding that provided for establishing a mechanism in this regard. Since then there has been little movement on the issue.
The Bahraini minister said a free trade agreement between Pakistan and the GCC was also in the pipeline.
“It will be discussed at the next meeting of the GCC in March. We will like to push it to success,” he said.
The visiting minister expressed interest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects about which he was given a detailed briefing.
The CPEC and the opportunities it offered would be discussed at the Pak-Bahrain joint business meeting and business opportunities conference being hosted by Pakistan next month, he said and added that the investment and commercial relations of the two countries were witnessing a “surge”.
Mr Aziz said: “We will welcome our Bahraini brothers to benefit from our expertise in countering terrorism and from the CPEC project.”
The Bahraini minister also called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who welcomed the establishment of the Joint Ministerial Commission and underscored the importance of expanding trade between both countries.
Published in Dawn February 7th, 2017