President Zardari’s visit to France, timely and fruitful

President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent visit to France  remained very useful and effective in projecting Pakistan’s point of view in the war against terror and to muster international support. 

Observers and Diplomats terming the visit “very timely and useful” said it helped Pakistan in explaining the difficulties and hurdles being faced by the country in the war against terrorism and recent natural disasters.

The diplomats said, it was need of the hour and would prove very helpful in seeking the support from the international community for Pakistan.  Presidential tour has enhanced understanding between Pakistan and France and it has achieved the targets.

France promises to expedite payments it pledged at Friends of Democratic Pakistan forum, both countries  on Tuesday agreed to set up of a ‘Joint Economic Commission’ for closer cooperation in food, agriculture, economic development and large-scale training of nurses. The decision was taken during a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who met Zardari prior to his departure for London.

The two sides agreed to hold the first meeting of the commission in October in Islamabad, while subsequent meetings will be held alternatively at both the capitals. France assured Pakistan that it would expedite the payment of money it had pledged during the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) forum. The president also informed the French foreign minister of the death and destruction caused by the floods and the need for international assistance to help Pakistan.

He too has decided and asked for an enterprise with Sarkozy, so as to discuss the working of a planned system. President Zardari had reportedly discussed about the same, during his last visit to France. This is his second visit to France in 14 months. He emphasized on the need to have a forceful support for a partisan entrée to the EU markets together with the buildup of a ministerial-level Joint Economic Commission.He also said that the two countries were in a need to intensify the level of political understanding, which was possible only if they enabled Parliamentary exchanges.

President Zardari also called for the early establishment of a framework for a strategic dialogue between the two sides. Pakistan has stepped up efforts to gain access to civil nuclear technology since its rival India concluded a landmark deal with the US a few years ago. It has urged the world community to adopt a “non-discriminatory” approach in civil nuclear cooperation.

President Zardari is on his second visit to France in 14 months and had raised the issue of civil nuclear cooperation during his last visit too. During his talks with Sarkozy, Zardari sought the establishment of a ministerial-level Joint Economic Commission, aggressive support for preferential access to EU markets and parliamentary exchanges to deepen political understanding between the two countries.

The president also called for “massive international assistance” to help Pakistan cope with the situation arising out of floods that had washed away hundreds of villages and killed hundreds of people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar quoted Zardari as saying that Pakistan attached great importance to ongoing defence cooperation with France, including the upgrade of Agosta submarines. Zardari also stressed the need to further strengthen defence cooperation between the two countries.

Referring to Pakistan’s campaign against militancy, Zardari said his government “had built political consensus and given ownership to the war against terror” even as the country paid a “huge cost in terms of human and material losses”. It was “unfortunate if some people continued to express doubts and misgivings about our will and determination to fight the militants to the finish”, he said. “Such misgivings will only undermind the international effort against militants and extremists,” he said. Pakistan’s efforts and contributions have not been matched by international support, he added.

The meeting was also attended by Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, defence minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar and foreign secretary Salman Bashir. The Pakistani President asked for international support. He said that the situation in his country had worsened due to the floods, which had resulted in washing away several villages. Hundreds of people of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province had been killed. Zardari made a statement about his country’s campaign against militancy saying that his Government “had built political consensus and given ownership to the war against terror” even as the country paid a “huge cost in terms of human and material losses.

The president also asked French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner  to explore the possibility of a debt swap arrangement between the two countries. He urged France to take the lead in helping Pakistan get greater market access in the European Union. The president met earlier French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. He has now arrived in the UK on a five-day visit.



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