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State Dinner in Honour of Pakistan President - PM

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
State Dinner in Honour of Pakistan
President Pervez Musharraf

Rangitoto Ballroom, Langham Hotel
Auckland

9.00 pm
Friday 17 June 2005

Your Excellency, President Pervez Musharraf, and First Lady, Mrs Sehba Musharraf, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Mr President, it is a pleasure to welcome you and the First Lady to New Zealand, and to Auckland.

On the face of it, our two countries are very different. Pakistan is nearly three times the size of New Zealand, and you have a population which is 35 times larger. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, bounded by land on all but one side. New Zealand is a secular state, surrounded by sea. Our nearest neighbour, New Caledonia, is a two and a half hour flight away. Pakistan, by contrast, is at one of the great geo-strategic cross-roads, and shares borders with China, India, Afghanistan, and Iran.

Yet, while these differences in size, history, and geography are considerable, they should not obscure common aspirations which are shared by all peoples: for security, stability, prosperity, and a world which is safeguarded for future generations.

The relationship between our countries has not been large. We do know Pakistan’s sportspeople, especially the hockey and cricket teams. Off and on we have been fellow members of the Commonwealth. There are historical similarities in a number of our institutions. Although English is not Pakistan’s national language, nonetheless it is widely spoken there and makes it easy for us to communicate.

Our trade links are modest. For the year ending December 2004 the value of our merchandise exports to Pakistan was just over $24 million, and the value of our imports from Pakistan was just over $65 million. That makes Pakistan our sixty-first largest trading partner, nestled between Guatemala and Bangladesh !

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Phil Goff, visited Pakistan last year. He reported back to our government that there was scope for us to grow our relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan’s economic and population growth, and New Zealand’s high quality education for international students suggest that education could be an area of future opportunity, and President Musharraf has confirmed that in our discussions today.

Similarly, the fact that Pakistan is one of the largest milk producers in the world, and New Zealand is one of the largest dairy exporters with advanced technology, makes agriculture another area of potential partnership. As well, a New Zealand ICT trade mission visited Pakistan last month and identified the telecommunications and banking sectors as being of interest.

Today, President Musharraf and I have agreed that our officials should work together on increasing our trade and education links. A new agreement providing for regular talks between our foreign ministries has been signed, and we will also activate the provisions of the 1990 Trade Agreement for discussions on our trade potential.

Since the events of September 11 2001, countering terrorism has become a focus for many governments, including our own. Pakistan has had a key role to play in this, and you, Mr President, have shown courage and commitment in taking action against terrorists, despite a difficult domestic situation.

New Zealand, too, is committed to co-operation at the international and regional level, consistent with the rule of law and fundamental human rights. We are committed to increasing our understanding of the forces which encourage a climate in which terrorism thrives, and to contributing, where we can, to addressing them.

Given our location and strategic interests, our counter-terrorism capacity building effort is mainly directed to the Pacific and South East Asia. But we are interested in co-operation in other parts of the world. We welcome Pakistan’s suggestion that we look at how we can work together in this area in future.

Indeed, we are already actively supporting security and reconstruction efforts in Pakistan’s own neighbourhood. We have had a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan Province in Afghanistan since September 2003. In addition we have deployed special forces and army and police trainers to Afghanistan. We are also involved there with a modest aid programme. Our hope is to see stability in Afghanistan. That will be good for Pakistan, and for the international community as a whole.

The values and habits of good governance which we are working to support in Afghanistan are of wider relevance. New Zealand pays close attention to the steps which are being taken to restore democratic governance to Pakistan. For us, and for other like-minded Commonwealth members, it is important that Pakistan finds a way to comply fully with Commonwealth principles. I appreciate the frankness with which the President has explained his intentions in this regard.

Mr President, as you know, New Zealand has been a tireless advocate for disarmament and against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The possession of nuclear weapons by both Pakistan and India made the tensions between the two countries in 2002 deeply worrying for the rest of the world. The steps taken by India and Pakistan since then to build confidence and lessen tension have been greatly welcomed by New Zealand. We know that these moves have taken political courage on both sides. We are heartened that the confidence building measures are continuing. We wish Pakistan and India success in this important peace initiative which could bring the great benefit of stability in South Asia.

Both New Zealand and Pakistan are developing closer links with the countries of South East Asia. Pakistan recently became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Last year it acceded to ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, which New Zealand is in the process of doing.

New Zealand is committed to engaging more deeply with ASEAN countries and with the countries of the wider Asian region. Under our government’s Seriously Asia strategy of 2003, we are working hard with the nations of Asia to ensure that New Zealand can be an active participant in the regional structures that are taking shape today. In this context, we also welcome the opportunity to develop stronger links with Pakistan.

Mr President, your visit to New Zealand is historic. You are the first President of Pakistan to visit our country. May your visit be the catalyst for much more contact between our countries in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now propose a toast to His Excellency, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and to friendship between New Zealand and Pakistan.

ENDS

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