JESPER MOLLER SORENSEN: Denmark to expand its engagement with Pakistan

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Danish ambassador talks to DNA and Centreline

Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

 1.      Let us begin with relations between the two countries. If you could briefly describe history of relations between Denmark and Pakistan besides sharing with our readers you vision and plan to give new dimensions to this relationship?

Only 6-7 years ago, our presence in Pakistan was organized around a visa and consular section. Today, our engagement is broader. I am confident it will expand further in the years to come. In 2010, Denmark initiated a three year development program. We have just launched our next phase with an increased budget of $50 million. Since 2011, Pakistan has been part of our regional stabilization program. 

We have also given more priority to public diplomacy. It is important for us to explain what Denmark does in Pakistan, and what we stand for.

In the long run, however, Pakistan should not be dependent on external donor assistance, but should become a prosperous country because of its own resources and its trade relations. That is also why we now will focus more on commercial activities between our two countries. This week, I will meet Danish companies and their Pakistani partners in Karachi to discuss, how we can increase our trade further.

  1. 2.     One of your recent articles you wished to increase Danish exports to Pakistan by 40 per cent. Please tell us some more details that which areas Denmark would like to focus to increase its exports to Pakistan?

I am fully aware that a 40 per cent increase in the next three years is a very ambitious goal. But I do believe it is achievable.

Pakistan faces challenges and will need to invest heavily in areas, where Danish companies are world leaders: for instance renewable energy, energy efficiency, health care and pharmaceuticals.

Like Pakistan, Denmark is a country with a long agricultural tradition. While Pakistan’s agriculture has low cost and lots of land, the Danish companies can contribute with know-how and advanced technological solutions. Here, I see potential for partnerships and joint ventures.

  1. 3.      Danish embassy plans to open a commercial section. Can you update our readers about this important development and what actually promoted you to open a commercial section?

In 2012, Denmark’s export of goods to Pakistan was close to 100 million USD. That is not bad, but as Albert Einstein said: “Everything is relative”. Our mutual trade could be much higher, if we both work hard to achieve this goal. As an Embassy, we can assist by facilitating contacts between our companies.

Furthermore, we open the commercial section, because the potential is huge. Let me give one example within the health care sector: Diabetes is widespread in Pakistan. Experts estimate that the numbers are growing, unfortunately, as it is a very serious disease. The market for diabetes care products in Pakistan is expanding rapidly, and a Danish company like Novo Nordisk is a world leader in insulin.

And a sweet example: A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to Karachi. It was pleased to see that Lego has just opened its first store in Pakistan. I think that children all over Pakistan would like to play with Lego toys – also in Pakistan.

  1. 4.     Denmark is also keen to help Pakistan in education sector especially in FATA, KPK and Northern Areas. Can you share with us, in detail, the proposed plans and initiatives in this regard?

Our development program has a primary focus on education, and most of our projects are directed toward KP, FATA and Balochistan. We have rehabilitated almost 500 schools and supported more than 150,000 students with great emphasis on girls’ education in the conflict affected districts and Internal Displaced Peoples camps.

In our new 3 year program, which I officially signed on behalf of the Government of Denmark on September 30, 2013 in Islamabad, we will continue to provide support for education services in KP and FATA with an emphasis on girls’ education. We will also continue our support to Pakistan’s priorities given in the “post-crisis-needs-assessment”. And then we will strengthen our support to Civil Society Organisations in the areas of democratization, human rights and gender equality.

  1. 5.     Pakistan has is facing difficult challenges in terms of security issues. Do you think security is a serious problem and a source of foreign investors and foreign companies engaged in Pakistan?

Let me be frank: many Danish companies are reluctant to involve themselves in Pakistan. They see major challenges such as security, and they have concerns about corruption, the legal system, and a shortage of energy.

If some of these concerns can be alleviated, I believe that more Danish companies would also be willing to invest more time and resources in Pakistan.

  1. 6.      How do you see Pakistan government role in war on terror. Do you think things are moving in the right direction?

I do not think we can over emphasize Pakistan’s importance in the region. Pakistan is a very important partner in our struggle against terrorism. Together with our partners, we are working with the government of Pakistan in regards to our peace objectives. We stand by the people of Pakistan and hope to continue our partnership for the betterment of the region.

We cannot have a stable region without a stable Pakistan. I think we all acknowledge that Pakistan has suffered gravely from terrorism. Extremist organizations have been wreaking havoc upon the nation. We just saw that last month with the carnage against the Church in Peshawar and the subsequent attack on a market place killing dozens of innocent people.

 

  1. 7.     Pakistan is desirous to get GSP plus status from EU. Can Denmark help Pakistan in this regard?

I believe it would be beneficial for Pakistan to get the GSP+ status. It would give even better market access for Pakistani products to European markets. However, it is of course up to Pakistan to ensure that Pakistan qualifies for GSP+.

To qualify for GSP+, countries will need to prove their record on implementing international human rights, labour rights and good governance conventions. We are in a continuous dialogue with the Government of Pakistan on some of these issues, and our assistance program also has a strong focus on human rights and gender equality.

  1. 8.    Anything you would like to add

It has been a pleasure to arrive and work in Islamabad. My Pakistani hosts have been wonderfully nice, warm and welcoming. And hardworking. If the next three years will be like the first two months, I truly look forward to my time in Pakistan.