By Shabbir Hussain
ISLAMABAD, Oct 24 (Diplomatic Star): The ASEAN Corner at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) inauguration on Monday affirmed the country’s partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani unveiled the plaque and inaugurated the ‘ASEAN Corner’ at the ISSI. The event was characterized by ASEAN Envoys as a “milestone” in the growing Pakistan-ASEAN collaboration.
The inauguration was followed by a Round Table discussion, entitled: “Forging Partnership: Exploring the Future Prospects of Pakistan-ASEAN Relations.”
The inauguration ceremony attracted diplomats, scholars, students, media, and businessman representatives, and served as an opportunity to underscore ASEAN’s place and role in the world and to reinforce the efforts strengthening of Pakistan-ASEAN partnership, a news release said.
In his remark at the outset, ISSI DG Ambassador (R) Sohail Mahmood extended a warm welcome to all the participants and thanked the Foreign Minister and ASEAN Heads of Missions for their personal participation.
He highlighted the significance of the ‘ASEAN Corner’, which as an idea was first conceived in the ISSI-ACI (ASEAN Committee in Islamabad) meeting in January 2023.
Sohail Mahmood noted the strong historical and cultural ties between the people of Pakistan and the ASEAN region and outlined the evolution of Pakistan-ASEAN relations over the past several decades.
He said that besides increasing trade and investment ties, Pakistan was keen on strengthening hard and soft connectivity between the two sides. In this context, exploring the potential of the Regional Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was of crucial importance.
He added that full dialogue partnership with ASEAN remained a distinct objective for Pakistan. He further added that the print and digital resources provided at ‘ASEAN Corner’ would help academics and practitioners alike and, hopefully, engender more strategic insights into the region, promote an informed discourse, help formation of well-considered recommendations, and facilitate forward-looking diplomatic initiatives for Pakistan’s enhanced engagement with ASEAN.
In his remarks, Mohammad Azhar Mazlan, High Commissioner of Malaysia and ACI Chairman expressed gratitude to all those in attendance. He highlighted the deepening relations between Pakistan and ASEAN and underscored the success and achievements of ASEAN as a regional organization.
He stressed that ways should be explored for deepening Pakistan-ASEAN relations in the three pillars of political-security, trade-economic, and socio-cultural.
The inauguration of the ASEAN Corner was followed by a roundtable Discussion moderated by Dr. Talat Shabbir, Director CPSC, ISSI. Dr. Talat Shabbir highlighted the common security and economic partnerships between Pakistan and the ASEAN. He outlined the event’s purpose, which aimed to shed light on shared challenges and prospects.
Adam M. Tugio, Ambassador of Indonesia, said that a three-pronged approach for Pakistan and ASEAN was needed to mutually benefit, focusing on common interests and collaboration in areas like economy, information technology, and sustainable development goals. He encouraged intellectual exchanges through visits by Pakistani think tank experts to the ASEAN events and frequent exchanges between relevant counterparts.
Nguyen Tien Phong, Ambassador of Vietnam, emphasized the potential for increased research and collaboration between the ASEAN and Pakistan. He pointed to the vast population and market potential of the ASEAN, especially in a post-COVID-19 world.
Dr. Muhammad Shoaib, Assistant Professor, National Defence University, Islamabad, stressed the need for academic and policy collaboration, including cultural linkages and ease of travel for mutual engagement. He called for learning from the ASEAN experience in addressing common challenges.
Chakkrid Karachaiwong, Ambassador of Thailand, highlighted the diversity within the ASEAN as a strength and proposed areas of cooperation with Pakistan, including cyber security, cultural tourism, and technology. He saw potential in Pakistan’s technology sector and emphasized the importance of addressing challenges and realizing opportunities.
Juan Paolo Alix, Chargé d’ Affaires of the Philippines, reflected on the longstanding relations between Pakistan and the Philippines, emphasizing shared values and a commitment to peace. He encouraged research excellence at the ‘ASEAN Corner.’
Ambassador Ameer Khurram Rathore, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), emphasized the importance of combining practical diplomacy with research endeavours of the academia and think-tanks. He highlighted the millennia-old relationship between Pakistan and the ASEAN and called for deeper security and economic cooperation.
Initiatives like counter-terrorism consultation, transnational crime consultation, and promoting business-to-business (B2B) and people-to-people (P2P) interactions were highlighted in this regard.
Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG, ISSI, presented the Vote of Thanks and expressed optimism about the collaboration between Pakistan and the ASEAN, highlighting the potential for cooperation in traditional and non-traditional areas. He underlined the significance of the ‘ASEAN Corner’ in promoting economic collaboration, connectivity, and cultural exchanges, with a special focus on the Gandhara civilization.