Australian High Commissioner Tim George
HE Tim George: I have been privileged to serve as High Commissioner of Australia to Pakistan during a period of strong growth in Australia’s relationship with Pakistan. I particularly welcome the deepening of our engagement, which is based on a productive, friendly and mutually beneficial partnership. We have been able to deepen our relations in the areas including development cooperation, defence cooperation, collaboration in tackling transnational crime, education and other people-to-people links, and closer collaboration in the trade and investment sphere. We see Pakistan as a valuable long-term partner. We also wish to support Pakistan in facing its significant challenges. I am very pleased at the expansion of high-level links and dialogue between our two countries. We appreciate the Pakistan’s valuable participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth in 2011, the revival of Senior Officials Talks between Foreign Ministries and of the Joint Trade Committee, and good progress towards cementing much closer Parliamentary ties.
JWT: Pakistan is trying to develop its infrastructure and seeking cooperation from its friendly countries. What is the state of Australian development assistance to Pakistan?
HE Tim George: Australia’s development assistance to Pakistan has expanded significantly in recent years to an estimated A$96 million in 2012-13. The signing of the Australia Pakistan Development Partnership (APDP) was an important milestone, providing a positive framework for our long- term bilateral development cooperation. Australia has also been a major contributor of humanitarian assistance in time of crisis. We have also revived Pak-Australia business level interaction and meeting was held in Canberra. That is, in fact, part of a current dialogue.
JWT: How is the cooperation in the field of education as well as agriculture?
HE Tim George: There is a lot of cooperation in the field of education. We have very fine universities in the world. Australia is the 3rd largest destination for tertiary level education around the globe. We have a programme of awarding 100 scholarships for Pakistani students. There is a lot potential for cooperation in agriculture sector. We do have agriculture sector linkage programme between the two countries. Such programmes also exist in universities like Agriculture university of Faisalabad.
JWT: Terrorism has been one of the fierce challenges Pakistan has been facing. Whether Pakistan and Australia are partners in war against terror?
HE Tim George: Cooperation between Australia and Pakistan in combating terrorism and transnational organized crime has expanded substantially. A landmark development has been the establishment in 2010 of the high-level Pakistan-Australia Joint Working Group (JWG) on Border Management and Transnational Crime, which meets annually. We understand that Pakistan should keep on fighting against all kinds of terrorism. We will be working with Pakistan. We are also fighting against terrorist financing. There is also a grave issue of illegal immigration for Australia. We have been talking to many countries on this issue. We do have refugee programmes which are duly approved by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). I appreciate deeply Pakistan’s excellent cooperation on these issues. Based on its strong international credentials, Australia is a candidate for the United Nations Security Council for 2013/2014. If successful, we look forward to working with Pakistan and other friends in this important forum.
HE Tim George: Defence cooperation has also grown strongly with an emphasis on mutually beneficial training programmes, and the regular high level Strategic Dialogue, and since 2010, the highly successful 1.5 Track Security Talks.
JWT: Australia has signed an agreement with India for provision of Uranium. Whether Australia would be ready for a similar agreement with Pakistan?
HE Tim George: Agreement with India was a special initiative and, by no means, was intended against Pakistan. The Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) has already provided exemption to India for such deals whereas there is no exemption for Pakistan. So, these are two different situations of Pakistan and India. The exemption given to India by NSG made it possible to finalize a deal. However, we have not yet started providing Uranium to India because a number of steps have yet to be taken.
JWT: President Asif Zardari visited Chicago and attended NATO Summit on Afghanistan amidst a stand off between Pakistan and the United States. How do you comment?
HE Tim George: We understand the importance of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan for Pakistan. Pakistan has been bearing the burden of refugees. Pakistan and the region have legitimate interests in a stable and secure Afghanistan. Australia is a friend both to Pakistan and the United States. We want early return of normalization between Pakistan and the United States. We are happy that there are positive developments to this end. There is also a positive development on the issue of opening of Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs). And we welcome these developments. We also welcome President Zardari’s decision to go to Chicago and attend the NATO Summit over there.
HE Tim George: There is a particular security situation in Pakistan. When the situation improves, Australian cricket team would definitely visit Pakistan. We want to continue `friendly fight’ on cricket grounds.
JWT: How can the two countries further promote their relationship in the coming months, years and decades?
HE Tim George: There is much scope to boost links in the field of trade, investment, and joint ventures. Both countries have much to offer each other. Pakistan, with its large and talented population and its many resources, has great potential. Australia is the thirteenth largest economy globally, has strong economic fundamentals, and is a major Asia Pacific player with a diverse, multicultural society. Australia is a global economy but strongly linked with Asia. It is a diverse, multi-cultural society. We think Pakistan and Australia have a long way to build these relations. I will soon be leaving Pakistan after completing my tenure here. I and my wife, Geraldine, extend our warm thanks to the countless people who, whether officially or privately, have so generously extended assistance, hospitality and friendship, in the manner for which Pakistan is justly famous.