Once the centre of the Islamic Empire, Syria covers an area that has seen invasions and occupations over the ages from Romans and Mongols to Crusaders and Turks. A country of fertile plains, mountains and deserts, it is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Druze, Alawite shias and Arab sunnis, the last of whom make up a majority of the Muslim population. Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Lebanon and Israel on the west, Turkey on the north, Iraq on the east, and Jordan on the south. Coastal Syria is a narrow plain bordered by coastal mountains and still farther inland a steppe area. In the east is the Syrian Desert and in the south is the Jebel Druze Range. Ancient Syria was conquered by Egypt about 1500 B.C and after that by Hebrews, Assyrians, Chaldeans Persians and Alexander the Great of Macedonia. From 64 B.C. until the Arab conquest in A.D. 636, it was part of the Roman Empire. The Arabs made it a trade centre for their extensive empire, but it suffered severely from the Mongol invasion in 1260 and fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1516. Syria remained a Turkish province until World War I. Modern Syria gained its independence from France in 1946.
Pakistan-Syria Relations Pakistan and Syria have historical relations, where the two have ancient civilizational ties. Both countries were on the silk route trough which civilizational change took place for centuries, Islamic preachers that introduced Islam after 712 AD were from Syria. After the creation of Pakistan, Pakistan established and maintained warm relations with Syria and supported Syrian stance at many international forums particularly the issue of Golan Heights and Israeli aggression in the region. During the Yom Kippur war of 1967 several Pakistani pilots assisted the Syrian Air Force therefore Pakistani are more welcome in Syria than any other nation. Syrian nation also stood by Pakistani nation in the need of hour and the recent example is earthquake of 2005. Syria send three planes to Pakistan with 50 tones of aid during 2005 earthquake and Syrian medical team was also working in field hospital.
Trade Agreements Pakistan and Syria signed their first trade agreement on 11th August, 1969 and decided that they will soon sign Free Trade Agreement but due to some reason it could not happen. In 1996 Benazir Bhutoo being a prime minister visited Syria and signed four agreements on trade and cooperation which are as under.
General Pervaiz Mushraf visited Syria on 8th January 2001. Mushraf and Syrian prime minster Mustapha Miro signed an overall programme of cooperation between the two countries and five other agreements covering Industry, Science, Technology, Agriculture and News.
Cooperation in Information Technology Syria is lagging behind its Lebanese and Jordanian neighbours in the field of information technology, and had only 5,000 internet subscribers from the population of more than 17 million people in 2001. Being a brotherly nation Pakistan offered any kind of help in the field of information technology and Damascus Information Technology Centre is classical example of brotherly relations. The total cost of the project is $400,000 and that project financed by Syria, Pakistan Commission of Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South, and the Scientific and Technical Cooperation Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Syria put half of the cost, and the two commissions the other half.
Agricultural Cooperation International Centre for Agricultural research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) Aleppo, Syria has very close cooperation with Pakistan since its inception. ICARDA’s collaboration with other institutes under the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), including the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) in Islamabad, has been intensive. This collaboration has provided improved germplasm, and barley, wheat, lentil, kabuli chickpea and forage legumes breeding material; support for integrated pest and disease management and sustainable management of land and water resources. ICARDA has very significant role in various projects including major projects in the dry area of Balochistan and Punjab province where ICARDA introduced Salt-bush for improving live stock feed and the socioeconomics of dry areas agriculture in Pakistan. In 2004 Yar Mohammad Rind, Federal minister of food, agriculture and livestock visited Syria and acknowledged the efforts of Syria for alleviating poverty in dry areas of Pakistan.
Joint Venture Opportunities Pakistan and Syria could initiate joint ventures in the sectors of light engineering, textiles, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, cement, fertilizers, yarn, information technology, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Both countries have been planning to sign double taxation and free trade accord but matter has not materialized yet. Businessmen from both sides are also demanding banking and financial cooperation through opening of bank branches in cities like Karachi and Damascus this step will ease out the issue of opening and accepting of L/C for both countries and will pave way for enhanced bilateral trade.
Important Trade Events The following trade events which may interest Pakistani business community will be held at Damascus in 2011: