Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Neil Hawkins – accompanied by senior embassy officials – visited the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in Muzaffarabad City and interacted with the faculty and students of the institution.
The high commissioner emphasized the historical and longstanding ties between Pakistan and Australia and highlighted collaboration in various sectors such as education, climate change, agriculture, water resources, and reproductive health.
He said that Australia was providing financial support and food assistance to flood-affected individuals across Pakistan. Recognizing Pakistan’s significance in the region, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to supporting economic prosperity and sustainable and equitable development in Pakistan.
Regarding education cooperation between Pakistan and Australia, Neil Hawkins said that a limited number of scholarships were offered to Pakistani students based on merit, and efforts will be made to ensure that students from Azad Jammu and Kashmir receive a fair share of these scholarships.
Prof Dr Wajid Aziz Lone seeks Australian cooperation in training students in cyber security, data science, artificial intelligence, and related areas
In response to questions regarding human rights violations and the suffering of the Kashmiri people in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir, he acknowledged the complexity of the Kashmir issue. “Australia’s stance has consistently been that the matter should be resolved through peaceful bilateral talks between Pakistan and India,” he added.
The Australian high commissioner expressed understanding for the concerns and problems faced by the Kashmiri people, particularly divided families residing in both Pakistani and Indian parts of the divided Kashmiri state. He emphasized the need for a humanitarian resolution to the lingering Kashmir issue.
Upon arrival at the City Campus of the university, the high commissioner and his delegation were received by Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Kaleem Abbasi, Registrar Prof Dr Ghulam Murtaza, Prof Dr Syed Nadeem Haider Bukhari, Dean of Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Dr Bashir ur Rehman Kanth, Director of Finance Dr Bilal Ahmed Abbasi, Director of Students Affairs Dr Imtiaz Ahmed Awan, and other senior officials.
Prof Dr Muhammad Kaleem Abbasi briefed the Australian High Commissioner on the university’s educational, research, and administrative affairs. Additionally, a documentary showcasing the university’s academic achievements was screened during the visit. Director of university’s Planning and Development Prof Dr Ansar Yasin presented an overview of the university’s efforts to bring about economic and social changes in Azad Kashmir through academic interventions.
He proposed an academic corridor between Pakistan and Australia to explore further opportunities for mutual cooperation, which was appreciated by the high commissioner, and assured progress on the proposal. Dr Bashir ur Rehman Kanth expressed gratitude to the Australian government and people for their support and participation in the rehabilitation of areas affected by the devastating earthquake in 2005.
He also briefed the delegation about the university’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, emphasizing its crucial role in producing healthcare professionals and educators to meet the region’s health sector needs. Prof Dr Wajid Aziz Lone provided an overview of the university’s education in information technology, seeking cooperation from Australia in training students in fields such as cyber security, data science, artificial intelligence, and related areas. The vice-chancellor presented a shield to the visiting guest as a gesture of appreciation.