Wed, 17 Dec 2003

Mega ends trip, concludes counterterror deal with Pakistan

Agencies, Jakarta

President Megawati Soekarnoputri completed on Tuesday her state visit to Pakistan, where she inked trade and antiterrorism agreements with the South Asian country.

Megawati and Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali witnessed the signing of preferential tariff and antiterrorism cooperation agreements between the two predominantly Muslim countries.

"The concrete implementation of the antiterrorism agreement involves sharing intelligence information," Megawati told a press conference for Indonesian journalists as quoted by Antara.

The President said Pakistan would like to enhance its trade and social relationships with Indonesia in order to give more substantial meaning to the existing ties between the two countries.

Earlier on Monday, Megawati held a meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The visit came a few days after Pakistani authorities deported six Indonesian students who were arrested early in September for alleged involvement in terrorist activities.

Among the students, who are currently in Jakarta Police custody, is Rusman Gunawan, the younger brother of terrorist suspect Hambali, who is currently in United States custody.

Megawati began the state visit in Pakistan on Sunday under tight security as a few hours before her arrival President Musharraf survived an assassination bid.

She canceled on Tuesday her plan to visit Taxila industrial estate on the outskirts of Islamabad and cut the trip short by three hours from its original schedule.

Megawati denied speculation that her trip had been cut short for security reasons, saying that the Pakistani government had ensured the safety of their guests.

"It was more a technical arrangement, and that we did not have to see the industrial estate," Megawati said.

The presidential entourage is slated to arrive here later on Wednesday at Halim Perdanakusumah airport.

Megawati's trip to Pakistan came after a visit to Tokyo for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan commemorative summit and a personal trip to Shanghai.

During the press conference, the President also said the new trade deal with Pakistan was part of a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement between the two countries.

It was Megawati's first visit to Pakistan, while President Musharraf visited Indonesia in 1999 after a bloodless coup in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said Pakistan had sought Indonesia's support for its membership of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Pakistan's rival India has summit partner status with the Southeast Asian security grouping.

The ARF comprises ASEAN members as well as Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, South Korea, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Russia and the United States.

Pakistan "wishes to consolidate its excellent relations with the ASEAN," the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) quoted President Musharraf as saying.

"We believe that our close and active association with ASEAN processes would be mutually beneficial," he said.

Musharraf told Megawati there was a need to build synergies between Southeast Asia and South Asia "to develop a win-win situation for the Asian region as a whole."

Pakistan's total trade turnover with ASEAN countries stands at around 1.5 billion dollars, whereas rival India's trade with the bloc is estimated at 12.5 billion dollars, an official told AFP.

Megawati has told Musharraf that Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair, and all other ASEAN countries "unanimously support Pakistan's admission" and would endeavor to make it happen in the coming months.