Pakistani PM may visit Australia

April 8th, 2008 - 7:18 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, April 8 (IANS) While an Indian prime minister has not visited Canberra in over 20 years, newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani is likely to visit Australia. Australia’s High Commissioner in Islamabad Zorica McCarthy met Gillani Monday and held an informal discussion about the new prime minister’s possible visit to Australia.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told the Australian Associated Press, “They had some discussion about the possibility of the prime minister visiting Australia.”

“Gillani has some relatives in Australia,” the spokeswoman added.

In 2005, President Pervez Musharraf became the first Pakistani head of state to visit Australia.

The last Indian prime minister to visit Australia was Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 when a Labour government led by Bob Hawke was at the helm.

India has also not been on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 17-day overseas itinerary, as part of which he visited the US last week and will be in China this week. While a lot of hue and cry was raised about Japan being omitted by Rudd during this tour, there has been no mention of New Delhi.

Last week speaking at the Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s oldest and most distinguished think tanks, Rudd did say, “I am committed to developing a broad-based relationship with India - political, economic as well as embracing a more substantive security dialogue.”

“I want to see Australia and India develop closer relations at all levels. Australia wants to see India included in regional bodies. India’s inclusion in the East Asia Summit (EAS) adds a crucial dimension to the EAS. And we strongly support India’s membership of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation).”

Writing in The Australian newspaper Tuesday, veteran journalist and author Phillip Adam says, “India is too important to be treated as an afterthought, even by Kevin Rudd.”

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