Australia will provide over 200 million dollars in financial assistance to Pakistan during the next three years under the Australia-Pakistan Development Partnership Program, this was revealed during a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. President Zardari welcomed Australia’s enhanced assistance in the fields of education, agriculture and vocational training as the two leaders met on the sidelines of a two-day NATO summit.

According to Presidential spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar, during the meeting, President Zardari said that Pakistan- Australia economic and trade relations were an important component of the bilateral relations and called for further enhancing these ties.

“Australia is an important country and an important development  partner of Pakistan”, the President said while appreciating Australian assistance for flood relief in 2010, earthquake in 2005, rehabilitation  of internally displaced persons in Swat in 2009 and for its active participation in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) talks.

Regional situation and fight against extremism and militancy also came under discussion during the meeting.

Outlining his vision of peace and development in the region,  President Zardari said that Pakistan was looking towards a long term economic engagement in the region for fighting militancy and for this purpose would not allow its soil to be used for any subversive activity against any other country. At the same time, Pakistan hoped that the soil of other countries would not be used against it.

In this connection, the President also referred to the unanimous Resolution of Pakistan’s Parliament outlining guidelines for the nation’s foreign policy.

He said that with a view to building on long term economic engagement the new transit trade agreement with Afghanistan had been finalized.

He said that in his talks with President Karzai of Afghanistan Sunday morning an agreement had been reached to extend the transit trade agreement to other countries beyond Afghanistan in the region. Economic development in border areas will help address the problems of militancy and terrorism, he said.

The President said that Pakistan believed that peace and stability  was central to the peace and stability of Pakistan and that Pakistan supported every effort for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

He said that the militants and extremists were created by the international community as a war weapon to defeat the rival ideology but when the war was won the international community left Pakistan alone to handle this monstrous war weapon. He said it was the responsibility of the entire international community to now help Pakistan in taming this monster.

Australian cooperation in the fields of education and agriculture also figured in the talks as President Zardari emphasized that the international community needed to strengthen educational infrastructure in the country to fight the militant mindset.

Farhatullah Babar said that Australia was currently supporting two  major projects in the education sector in Pakistan. One project in the  field of primary education is being implemented in four districts  of Baluchistan under the provincial government and the UNICEF. Under  the second program called Australian Development scholarships,  Australia provides scholarships to Pakistani students every year to study  at Masters level in Australia. During the past years over 500  scholarships have been made available to Pakistani students for post graduate studies in Australia, he said.

President Zardari also thanked the Australian Prime Minister for Australia’s assistance to the flood victims in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard thanked the President for sharing his views on militancy and said that her country will remain engaged with Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest and keep up assistance in education, agriculture and other areas.