Tim George has also recently announced that Australian companies are planning major investment in the citrus sector in Pakistan which may include a juice extraction plant. According to the Senior Trade Commissioner for Australia in South Asia Peter Linford, “the citrus growing region of Pakistan produces a fruit crop of 2 million tones four times that of Australia but the sector suffers losses up to 40 percent in wastage through handling, storage and cool change management as well as lack of value-added manufacturing options and alternatives”. With Australian investment in this sector Pakistan can improve production of Citrus crop and earn huge profit that can support the already ailing economy of Pakistan and also benefit farmers involved in this sector.
Lack of education is a major impediment in Pakistan’s progress. More than 50% of Pakistan’s population is illiterate and never get access to quality education. In 2005, Australian PM John Howard visited Pakistan and announced 500 scholarships for Pakistani students. After that the number of Pakistani students to Australia grew remarkably. Approximately, 5,000 Pakistani students are studying in Australia. AusAid has also provided significant number of scholarships to Pakistani students. From 1991 AusAid has provided 433 Australian Development Scholarships (ADS) to Pakistani nationals, of which around 39 per cent were to women. Fifty-one Pakistani nationals will begin their ADS studies in Australia during 2011. Australia’s contribution in the education sector of Pakistan is commendable.
Australia’s support and relief efforts after the 2005 quake and floods in 2010 cannot be forgotten. Australia in these natural calamities provided medical assistance, humanitarian aid and reconstructed schools and hospitals in the affected areas. In the aftermath of floods in Sindh, Australian medical teams treated more than 11,000 people and saved many lives. Such a great contribution by Australia in emergency situations will always be remembered and cherished by the people of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s relationship with Australia is not just confined to economic aid, trade, and development but Australia has also supported a lot Pakistan after 9/11. Pakistan has paid a huge price in the war against terror. According to Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, since 2007 more than 39,020 people lost their lives and got injured in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Australia has been a key strategic ally of Pakistan in the war against terror. In 2005, Pakistan signed a bilateral counter terrorism agreement with Australia to curb terrorism and extremism. Australia pledged to give counter-insurgency training to six Pakistani officers at Australian Defence College in 2009. Apart from this Australia can also help Pakistan in the training of Frontier Corps, Khasadars, Levies and police in FATA and Balochistan. These forces are ill-equipped and lack expertise to face highly equipped and trained militants. Such training would ultimately improve the efficiency of these forces to counter militancy and terrorism in Pakistan.
Australia is supporting Pakistan to counter threats to its national security and it is also helping Pakistan to overcome economic challenges. Australia’s support in other sectors including energy, education, agriculture, relief and reconstruction is commendable and cannot be forgotten. It is in the core national interest of Australia to help and support Pakistan at this moment because Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state confronting two insurgencies in FATA and Balochistan. Instability in Pakistan would have wide range of implications for regional and global peace. It is imperative for both countries to work together for mutual benefit and shared objective of durable peace and stability at global level.
The author is Research Fellow at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute Islamabad and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org