Australia Invites Pakistan for Meaningful Dialogue

Australian Prime Minister Julia GillardPERTH: Australia on Sunday invited Pakistan to a meaningful dialogue to deepen economic ties, enhance cooperation in agriculture and undertake joint investment ventures to strengthen bilateral relations as an effective means to counter-terrorism.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard extended the invitation to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani at a meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth. The Australian prime minister said her country looked forward to the bilateral visit in 2012 along with a delegation comprising businessmen, investors and agriculturists so as to explore new avenues for cooperation between the two countries.Gilani is the first democratically elected head of the Pakistani government to have visited Australia, which has emerged as its fifth-largest development partner.

The current volume of trade between Pakistan and Australia has surged to $700 million, still far below the real potential between the two countries. Gillard said Australia considered development as an important component of counter-terrorism strategy and would widen the scope of cooperation with Pakistan in all areas. Gilani also extended an invitation to the Australian premier to visit Pakistan and said there was a need to find new avenues of cooperation, particularly in areas of agriculture, energy, education, infrastructure and health.

He said the international community needed to extend assistance to Pakistan to enhance its capacity to fight the terrorists, who were a common enemy. He said it was particularly important in the wake of the colossal losses to the country’s economy because of terrorist activities. He said suicide bombings caused flight of capital and scared away the investors despite the lucrative incentives offered by the government. He said military operation was not a sustainable resolution to terrorism and a political process had to be initiated to bring about peace.

The prime minister said his initiative of political reconciliation was not taken seriously by the US leadership, but now his stance had been vindicated as the whole world was now urging a political solution for long-term stability in Afghanistan, by bringing to the negotiation table all Afghan factions. Gillard said she understood the criticality of political reconciliation in Afghanistan, as it was intertwined closely with stability, development and good governance.

Gilani categorically said the solution of Afghanistan should not adversely affect Pakistan as in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal that left behind 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and were an issue for Pakistan to this day. He said that about 45,000 Afghans daily cross the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and it was impossible to identify a terrorist from a tourist or an ordinary traveller. – PT