This week the Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston hosted a visit to Canberra by General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
General Wynne is visiting Australia for the fifth round of Pakistan-Australia Defence and Security Talks. During his visit he met with heads of national security agencies and joined the Australian Strategic Policy Institute for a roundtable discussion this afternoon. He also made a courtesy call on Minister for Defence Stephen Smith.
The annual talks are a key pillar in Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program with Pakistan and provide high-level strategic guidance for the defence relationship.
At the Defence and Security Talks, General Wynne and Air Chief Marshal Houston discussed the security situation in Pakistan and our shared interest in countering violent militant extremism there.
Both sides welcomed the recent United States operation that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. Air Chief Marshal Houston noted that this highlighted the continuing importance of close counter-terrorism cooperation between Pakistan and the United States and the international community.
The situation in Afghanistan was also discussed with General Wynne. Air Chief Marshal Houston welcomed Pakistan’s engagement on reconciliation in Afghanistan as an essential element of an enduring political settlement in that country.
Air Chief Marshal Houston underlined the importance of Pakistan playing a productive and responsible role in achieving a political settlement in Afghanistan.
The talks also covered the significant increase in defence cooperation between Australia and Pakistan over the past few years, particularly the rise in training courses in Australia offered to Pakistan military personnel.
Training course offers have increased from around 70 for 2009/10 to more than 140 in 2011. Australia has also increased the number of post graduate scholarships offered to Pakistan in fields such as policing and counter-terrorism from six to 12 positions for 2011.
Counter-insurgency skills are a key focus of our Defence Cooperation Program and Australia and Pakistan have developed a number of training initiatives in this area.
A particular highlight is the attendance of Pakistan military and Australian Defence Force officers on each other’s counter-insurgency modules at the Australian Defence College and the Pakistan Command and Staff College in Quetta.
Air Chief Marshal Houston acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts against the Pakistan Taliban in its border regions over the past two years. He also encouraged Pakistan to take further action in support of the efforts of the International Security Assistance Force and our Afghan partners against the Afghan insurgents who seek sanctuary in Pakistan’s border areas.
The events of the past week underline the importance of Australia’s defence cooperation program and our high-level dialogue with Pakistan’s military leadership. This is an essential element in fostering Pakistan’s cooperation with the international community in combating violent militant extremism in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
General Wynne’s program has now concluded.
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