Pakistan wants to be a full dialogue partner with ASEAN.
This was announced at the Third ASEAN- Pakistan Joint Sectoral Cooperation Committee (APJSCC) meeting held in Islamabad which ended on Monday (5 June). This meeting is significant given that the last APJSCC meeting was held five years ago. The first ASEAN-Pakistan Joint Sectoral Cooperation Committee meeting was held in Bali in 1999 and the second in Islamabad in 2001.
The resumption of the meeting is a reflection of improving ties between Pakistan and ASEAN. Pakistan became a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of ASEAN in 1997 and acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in 2004.
The ASEAN delegation was led by ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong. Representatives from the other ASEAN members also attended the meeting.
During the meeting, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Mr Riaz Muhammad Khan proposed the formation of a Joint Task Force and a Joint Working Group for cooperation in the agricultural sector, water and disaster management. Both ASEAN and Pakistan have further agreed to cooperate on eight specific areas- trade, investment, industry, environment, tourism, science and technology, drugs control and human resource development.
Pakistan is also keen on the formation of a free trade agreement (FTA) with ASEAN. It has agreed to provide $1 million in the Pakistan-ASEAN fund to carry out a feasibility study for the FTA. This feasibility study is expected to be completed by July 2007.
All these are part of the message that Pakistan is serious in its bid to be a full dialogue partner of ASEAN. This message was consistently given by the various Pakistan ministers. Prime Minister Shauat Aziz presented the strategic importance of Pakistan, with it being a member of Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO- a regional organisation which includes several Central Asian states, Iran and Turkey); South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); a founding member of the Organisation of Islamic Conferences (OIC) and an observer to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). President General Pervez Musharraf himself also made the pitch to ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong subsequently on Tuesday (6 June).
What is unfortunate is the seemingly lack of coverage in most, if not all, of the main ASEAN newspapers. Ironically, the Chinese, Indian and Pakistan newspapers have picked up this event. Perhaps it is high time that the media in ASEAN start paying attention to what is happening at the Secretariat.
Pak Comes Closer to ASEAN (Statesman [India], 7 June 2006)
Pakistan’s Inches Closer to Getting Full Dialogue Partners Status of ASEAN (The Pakistan Newswire, 6 June 2006)
Pakistan Qualifies ASEAN Membership, Says Musharraf (The Pakistan Newswire, 6 June 2006)
Pakistan, ASEAN to Fight Terror Jointly (The Nation [Pakistan], 6 June 2006)
Pakistan Attaches Great Importance to ASEAN, Shaukat (The Pakistan Newswire, 6 June 2006)
Pakistan, ASEAN to Conduct Feasibility Study Over Free Trade Agreement (Xinhua General News Service, 5 June 2006)
3rd APJSCC Meeting Today (Frontier Star, 4 June 2006)