PM Imran Khan in a quest for revitalizing foreign ties

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Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged to ease the life for common citizen of Pakistan as well as to enhance international coop­eration. The recent visit to Malaysia was also part of the same spirit. In a statement earlier, Foreign Ministry of Malaysia said that the visit was at the invitation of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. “The visit will be Imran’s inaugural visit to Malaysia since assuming his post last August”, it further revealed. The governments of Pakistan and Malaysia have a lot in common. Both are headed by a Prime Minister who swept to power after having ousted the incumbent, on the back of overwhelming support to wipe out corruption.

Both Prime Ministers inherited a country with large national debt and are popular personalities in and outside their countries. Malaysia and Pakistan enjoy substantive and longstanding bilateral relations in the field of education, tourism, defence cooperation and technical assistance. Malaysia was optimistic that this visit will provide a new impetus to the bilateral cooperation that would cement and elevate Malaysia and Pakistan relations to a higher level and so it did. In 2017, the total bilateral trade between the two coun­tries was recorded at RM5.76 billion (US dollar 1.34 billion), an increase of 3.5 per cent as compared to 2016. Pakistan is Malaysia’s third largest trading partner amongst South Asian countries.

During the visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Perdana Square, Prime Minister’s Office, Putrajaya by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia. After the welcoming ceremony, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya. Both lead­ers held fruitful and in-depth discussions, which took place in a warm and cordial atmosphere. The discussion covered a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interests.

PM Imran Khan, who admires Dr Mahathir, said both governments were in a similar situation. “The people gave us the power and mandate based on our anti-corruption platform,” he said at a joint press conference with Dr Mahathir after a bilateral meeting. Saying that Pakistan is now burdened with “unprecedented debt”, Imran Khan said there was a lot that Pakistan and Malaysia could share in dealing with the crisis and how they could get out of it. “We have fol­lowed Dr Mahathir’s progress, especially since I came to office. My party wants to learn from your experience and how you transformed the economy, Pakistan intends to seek Malaysia’s expertise in tourism, adding that despite having an abundance of tourist spots, there were very few resorts and this was where Malaysian companies could come in”.

At a luncheon held at Seri Perdana in honour of Imran Khan’s visit, Dr Mahathir acknowledged Pakistan’s confidence towards several Malaysian companies involved in vari­ous projects in the country. In a statement, foreign office of Malaysia said that the two leaders also discussed issues affecting the Muslim world, particularly on the situation in Palestine and Rakhine State in Myanmar. PM Imran Khan raised the issue of Kashmir on “its grave human rights situation”. “Malaysia also took note of Pakistan’s massive counter-terrorism efforts to eliminate terrorism,” the statement added.

The joint statement between the two countries clearly depicted the interest which both Nations have for each other. Regarding bilateral consultation further engagements been planned whereas for further enhancing the relations the steps like development of bilateral economic ties, expanding trade and investment, creating favourable conditions for commerce and business in both countries, particularly in palm oil, agri products, food retail, halal products, automotive parts, energy, science and technology, and telecom­munication will be further focused. The sole electric provider company in Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Berhad is open to business opportunities with Pakistan including in renewable energy.

The Malaysia-Pakistan Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (MPCEPA) signed on 8 November 2007 in Kuala Lumpur which entered into force on 1 January 2008 also remained a core issue on agenda. Malaysia and Pakistan recognised the importance of regular discussions to strengthen the trade relationship in key sectors and addressing bilateral trade imbalance. Both leaders wel­comed continuing efforts to further enhance bilateral economic relations and underscored importance of these efforts in advancing cooperation between Malaysia and Pakistan.

In this regard, both sides pledged to look forward to a possible MPCEPA Joint Com­mittee Meeting in the near future with the intention to enhance further economic part­nership. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to assist Pakistan in addressing its energy shortfall. In this regard an Inter-Governmental Agreement on Liq­uefied Natural Gas (LNG) has already been signed last year, which will be entertained further.

Both leaders witnessed the signing of the Partial Visa Abolishment Agreement (PVAA) which will reinforce the positive momentum in the bilateral relationship by broadening contact at the officials’ level between the two countries. Both sides acknowledged the importance of the tourism industry and youth exchanges in promoting greater people-to-people contacts, sustainable socio-economic growth, and in fostering mutual understanding between the two countries. Regional cooperation platforms has a special and particular importance so during PM Imran Khan’s visit to Malaysia, it remained an imperative point.

Pakistan has recognized Malaysia’s success in the high-tech industry hub in the northern state of Penang and highlighted its intention to explore greater collaboration between high-tech industries in Malaysia and Pakistan. Malaysia also invited Pakistani companies to invest in Malaysia in both manufacturing and services sectors where the companies are able to leverage Malaysia’s strategic location in expanding their investments into ASEAN and the Asia Pacific regions.

Pakistan invited potential Malaysian com­panies to explore the possibility of investing in Special Economic Zones to take advantage of Pakistan’s strategic location at the crossroads of Central, South and West Asia. Leaders of Both nations reaffirmed the importance of the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation and looked forward to the 13th Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation (JCDC) which will be convened in 2019 in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia invited Pakistan to participate in the upcoming Lang­kawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) in 2019. Pakistan also welcomed Malaysia’s participation in Defence Expo IDEAS- 2018.

During the visit PM Imran Khan also visited the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which indeed shows a pivotal and pragmatic approach. Recently, The Pakistani High Commissioner in Malaysia Mohammad Nafees Zakaria called on the Prime Minis­ter of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad and extended an invitation to attend Pakistan’s National Day on March 23 next year.

Published in Melange Intl. Magazine in January 2019.

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