California-Punjab sister province accord hailed as ‘milestone’ in Pak-US ties
California : “Sister Province Agreement between California and Punjab would open up vistas of opportunities in deepening mutual cooperation in critical areas including trade, agriculture, businesses, technology, environment and people-to-people contacts,” said former Prime Minister Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani.
“The landmark agreement is an important milestone in strengthening linkages between California and the largest populated province of Pakistan at all levels and would serve as a force multiplier in efforts to strengthen Pak-US relations,” observed Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Masood Khan.
Addressing a high level reception hosted by the leadership of Californian State Assembly in the honor of visiting delegation from Pakistan at the Governor’s mansion, Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani expressed the hope that the agreement would be instrumental in tapping untapped potential existing between the two federating units.
He said “Pakistan considers the US as its close ally, and hopes to further strengthen its bilateral relations with the US through frequent parliamentary and people-to-people exchanges۔”
The reception was organized to celebrate landmark agreement between California and Punjab and was attended among others by the Lieutenant Governor of California, Speaker and large number of California State assembly members along Pakistani-American community leaders.
Dr. Asif Mahmood, prominent Pakistani-American leader who recently contested election from California for the US House of Representatives, played a pivotal role for the establishment of sister province relationship between California and Punjab. He has been working with California assembly’s leadership and law makers to gather support for establishing California-Punjab partnership.
California State Assembly member Chris Holden, a veteran parliamentarian, steered the resolution and developed bi-partisan consensus for the passage of resolution.
Addressing the gathering, Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis said that that the agreement would help the two sides to expand and solidify ties between California and Punjab.
She said the state of California fully realizes the potential of cooperation between the two critically important provinces.
She also acknowledged important role of Pakistani-American community of Punjabi descent in the economic development of California. “They are contributing a lot in diverse sectors especially agriculture, health, IT and entrepreneurship,” noted Eleni Kounalakis.
Assembly member Chris Holden, in his remarks, stated that the agreement presented a unique opportunity to strengthen relations between California and Punjab.
“People to people and parliamentary exchanges are vital to ensure an enduring and long-term relationship,” he said.
Ambassador Masood Khan paid rich tribute to assembly member Chris Holden for linking California and Punjab and working hard for the adoption of resolution at the California assembly. He also thanked lawmakers for their bi-partisan support to signing of the historic agreement.
Masood Khan said that Pak-US relations were on ascending curve. This, he observed, was the most appropriate time for signing the agreement.
“There are natural complementaries between Pakistan and the United States particularly Punjab and California,” he said.
Referring to recent spurt in Pak-US bilateral trade volume especially IT services exports to the United States, amounting to $1.4 billion, the Ambassador noted that 80% of IT services from Pakistan were being exported to California.
“The recent spike in exports particularly in IT sector is satisfactory yet there exists a huge potential to enhance them to $5 billion in the near future. The agreement today would pave the way for realizing the existing potential,” he continued.
The Ambassador emphasized upon promoting university to university partnership that he said would provide underpinning to cement this relationship.
Pakistani delegation also invited leadership of California to visit Pakistan which they gladly accepted. A bipartisan delegation is expected to visit Pakistan in the near future.
Earlier, former Prime Minister Senator Yusuf Raza Gillani visited California State University Northridge and University of California Davis to discuss educational cooperation between Pakistan and the United States, especially in the field of agriculture. Significantly, he also witnessed signing ceremony of sister state agreement between California and Punjab. He was also recognized at the floor of California assembly, along with other members of Pakistan delegation.