Pak-Australian relations, which span across not just foreign policy but areas such as defence, counter-terrorism and agriculture, have not reached full potential however, said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Secretary Peter Varghese.
The DFAT secretary said this on Friday after concluding his three-day visit to Pakistan, which included the first high-level meeting between Australian and Pakistani officials since new governments came to power in both countries in 2013.
Varghese said his visit reflects the importance the new Australian government attaches to its bilateral relationship with Pakistan and pointed out that more could be done.
The focus of Varghese’s visit was a meeting for the Australia-Pakistan Bilateral Political Talks, according to the Australian High Commission in Islamabad. A similar meeting was last held in 2012 in the Australian capital, Canberra.
The talks signified the first high-level meeting of foreign affairs officials between Australia and Pakistan since each country ushered in new governments through general elections in 2013.
Varghese, who took up his position as Secretary of DFAT in December, indicated both Australia and Pakistan are keen on economic progress.
“Both our new Governments have placed the economy at the heart of their domestic and foreign policy priorities which lays a
very good foundation for greater cooperation in a wide range of areas including trade and investment,” he said, in a written statement released by the High Commission.
“While our relations have grown steadily in recent years, I am keen to explore new areas of potential cooperation between Australia and Pakistan,” Varghese said.
According to the Australian High Commission, Australia’s development assistance to Pakistan stands at $76 million in 2014. The assistance supports efforts to maintain stability and democratic governance and achieve economic development and poverty reduction, according to the High Commission.
Australia, which is home to a 30,000-strong Pakistani community, is also the second most popular destination for Pakistani students in the world, with over 12,000 Pakistanis studying Down Under.
The Australian delegation that took part in the talks consisted of Varghese, Australian High Commissioner Peter Heyward and Tiffany McDonald, the Director of the Pakistan and Central Asia Section of DFAT in Canberra.
The Pakistani delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, according to the Australian High Commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2014.
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