Pakistan’s case for Full Dialogue Partner with ASEAN is strong: Indonesian Envoy


Chairman of the ASEAN Committee in Islamabad and Ambassador of Indonesia to Pakistan H.E Adam Mulawarman Tugio has said that there are wider opportunities for cooperation between Pakistan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries in specific areas including trade, investment, anti-terrorism, international crime, economic cooperation, food, agriculture, science and technology, innovation, information and communication technology, tourism, natural disaster management, and human resource development.  

“We are engaging Pakistan at two levels, first institutional dialogue between Pakistan and ASEAN through secretarial at Jakarta and secondly enhancing bilateral relations with the member states,” he said. “We are working with the relevant authorities in Pakistan to further improve the relations” he added. In an interview, Ambassador Tugio said that Indonesia assumes the Chairmanship of ASEAN this year and there will be many responsibilities for Indonesia onward for better ASEAN and to promote collaboration within the ASEAN and with the dialogue partners as well. Pakistan is one of the sectoral dialogue partners of ASEAN.

He elaborated that Pakistan became Sectoral Dialogue Partner with the ASEAN in 1993; however, since 2019 both are working on a specific plan of action “ASEAN-Pakistan Sectoral Dialogue Partnership: Practical Cooperation Areas”. This plan annually reviews the progress in given areas including countering terrorism, violent extremism, and transnational crimes, economic cooperation, food, and agriculture, science, technology, and innovation, information and communication technology, tourism, disaster management, culture, human resource development, and connectivity are the core areas in which Pakistan and ASEAN are working.

He said that relations between Pakistan and the ASEAN countries are very important and the parties are willing to further expand ties in agreed areas. He pointed out that the combined population of Pakistan and ASEAN is more than 900 million. Pakistan is being invited and participating in the ASEAN activities, which shows Pakistan’s keen interest in the region. Pakistan’s case for Full Dialogue Partners (FDP) with ASEAN, is very strong; however, it will take some time.

Ambassador Tugio said that Pakistan has conducted a study ten years ago about the Pakistan and ASEAN engaging in the free trade agreement, but why not Pakistan should join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP)? This will provide an opportunity to collaborate with ASEAN as well as five other dialogue partners. The process may take some time, as RECP just came into force before the countries joined. Any other country or separate customs territory in the region can accede to the pact from 1 July 2023 onward.

The RECP is a free trade agreement among the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. It’s a huge regional trading bloc with 30 percent of the global GDP, a 2.3 billion population, and one-fourth of the global population living in the RECP.

Ambassador Tugio said that there is huge potential exist between ASEAN and Pakistan to expand economic cooperation, Pakistan and ASEAN combined have more than 900 million population, which is a huge market. In terms of trade, the volume is $11 billion which is less than the potential.

Talking about bilateral relations Tugio suggested that Indonesia and Pakistan can collaborate on products that can enable both to improve and produce better trade services. For example, Pakistan can import raw material for its export ‘House Linen’ from Indonesia, he said.

Through a focus on industries having a comparative advantage, he suggested that both countries should focus on targeted industries that can open new avenues for cooperation between ASEAN and South Asian nations Pakistan and Indonesia can be linked with E-Commerce trade to increase bilateral trade, he said. Ambassador Tugio said that to be a part of the global supply chain, Indonesia could be a bridge to ASEAN, and Pakistan may be the gateway for the Central Asian republics. Both countries can utilize each other’s strategic location to enhance global trade outreach.

He suggested Pakistan also can import raw materials for surgical and textiles from Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. Pakistan produces the best leather products and football. You can collaborate with these two countries and export to a third country.

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Almas Haider Naqvi is PhD Scholar at School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is a senior journalist having experience of more than 15 years currently associated with Dunya News Group as Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Correspondent. In recognition of his credible reporting, Aghai Awards awarded him in 2015.