Pakistan and Bahrain discussed expanding their existing defence cooperation after high-level talks held at the Joint Staff headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Wednesday.
King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who is on an official visit to Pakistan, visited the Joint Staff headquarters where he was received by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with the chiefs of the three services, including Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.
During their formal talks, the countries discussed options to strengthen their defence and security cooperation. Historically, Pakistan and Bahrain enjoy strong defence ties. Pakistan had reportedly helped Bahrain set up its naval forces and 18 per cent of the Gulf state’s air force comprises Pakistani personnel.
It is estimated that almost 10,000 Pakistanis are serving in security services of Bahrain. During the Arab Spring, Bahrain is believed to have hired the services of retired military and police officials to quell the revolt.
According to the official statement issued after the talks, the King of Bahrain lauded the professional competence, training and courage of the defence forces of Pakistan. He said Pakistani armed forces have rendered matchless sacrifices for the defence of the country.
Meeting with the president
In his other engagements, the Bahraini King also met President Mamnoon Hussain. According to an official statement released after the meeting, the president said Pakistan attaches great importance to its close and fraternal ties with Bahrain.
He said the two countries have always stood by each other in testing times and appreciated the assistance extended by the Kingdom of Bahrain to Pakistan in difficult times, including the natural calamities the country has witnessed over the years.
Discussing bilateral trade ties, the president said economic relations between the two countries have been gradually improving, however, there was still a lot of untapped potential.
He urged the need to regularly hold meeting of the Joint Commission as it provides a good platform for reviewing the status of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. The chambers of commerce and industry of both countries need to be encouraged to have regular interaction and revitalise the Joint Business Council, the president stated.
King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa thanked the president, the prime minister and the Government of Pakistan for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to him and his accompanying delegation, adding that Pakistan was like a second home to him.
Foreign ministers meet
Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz also met his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa.
The two foreign ministers reviewed the status of the bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international matters. Underscoring the importance of institutional mechanism for cooperation, they welcomed the formation of the Joint Ministerial Commission and the revitalisation of bilateral political consultations between the two countries.
The two foreign ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding on labour and occupational training.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2014.