Australia is set to rank next only to the United States in extending military training to Pakistan. This follows Canberra’s decision on Friday to enhance support for “Pakistan’s efforts to promote stability and [to] counter extremism.”

In a media release, Australia said the enhanced assistance, spanning several areas of cooperation, was announced after the Friends of Democratic Pakistan summit in New York. Describing Pakistan as “one of the world’s most strategically important countries,” Canberra said the New York summit “endorsed the establishment of a multi-donor trust fund for Pakistan’s border areas” to combat militant extremism. The fund would be administered by the World Bank.

At the top of the list of Australia’s new measures was its decision to “strengthen Pakistan’s security and stability” by doubling to 140 the number of places for training the Pakistan Army personnel. Another measure of military-related goodwill was the move to establish post-graduate scholarships.

On the diplomatic front, Canberra decided to expand strategic dialogue with Islamabad. Australia would also initiate a Development Partnership. This would cover help for “health reform” in Pakistan and for the reconstruction of the Malakand region, besides 100 farm scholarships. The larger issues of “democratic governance and economic reform in Pakistan” would also come under the purview of the new Development Partnership. Canberra would also “support closer business links” with Pakistan.

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