The Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) inaugurated its Centre for Middle East & Africa (CMEA) on Thursday. The occasion was graced by the presence of Mr. Ali Javed, the Additional Secretary Africa, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan. Director-General Middle East, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan, Syed Zahid Raza, also attended the event.
CMEA aims to encourage and provide quality research, analysis, policy input, and dialogue on matters related to the Middle East and Africa. It will observe the latest developments, contributing in-depth research and analysis, as well as organizing and promoting dialogue and debate on political, security, economic, and social aspects of the Middle East and African countries, with a particular focus from Pakistan’s perspective.
Ms. Amina Khan, Director CMEA, in her introductory remarks, underscored the importance of studying different regions and countries to understand their respective challenges and responsibilities better.
In his welcome remarks, the Director General ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, stated that the Government of Pakistan is working on establishing ties with the African countries as a top priority. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is very keen in this respect. He hoped that CMEA would deliver on this front and work closely with the government in developing better relations.
Mr. Ali Javed said that there is a lot of opportunity in the African region that needs to be tapped into. All conferences and seminars should translate into the concrete establishment of ties between the two sides. He outlined the shortcomings of the Nairobi trade fair and pointed to countries such as Tunis and Morocco, which have shown interest in establishing commercial links with Pakistan.
Mr. Zahid Raza said that the Middle East region is of immense importance to Pakistan, especially in terms of the vast Pakistani Diaspora, which resides there. He hoped that CMEA could provide quality input and constructive engagements, which would help shape Pakistan’s foreign policy in this region – at an individual country level as well as the Middle East as an entity.
In his concluding remarks, Chairman BOG, ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, highlighted how, over the years, Pakistan has helped African countries, especially during their period of decolonization. The African continent is one that is increasing in importance. He said that CMEA should develop greater linkage with African community in Pakistan and keep them abreast of all developments pertaining to Pak-African relations.