Ambassador of Brazil talks to Centreline and DNA
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Ambassador of Brazil Alfredo Leoni talks to Centreline and DNA
Ambassador of Brazil to Pakistan Alfredo Leoni gave an exclusive interview to Centreline and DNA. Ambassador Leoni has completed his term in Pakistan and shall soon assume his new assignment in Poland as Ambassador. Ambassador Leoni talked in detail about various aspects of bilateral relationship. Also he talked about recently held football world cup. Here are excerpts from his interview.
I am very relieved and relaxed that the mega event is over and nothing went wrong during the entire fixture. The only bad news is that Brazil did not perform well and finished 4th in the tournament but even 4th positions is not too bad. Of course, Brazil should have performed better however because of injuries of some key players, things did not go well for us.
I am really very happy that despite the negative press and all suspicions about the performance of the Brazilian authorities everything went very well. All the delegates including the participating teams were all praise for the arrangements the Brazilian government had made for their security. Likewise, they also praised the way all the stadiums were prepared and equipped with all necessary tools.
Another thing is which is very important to remember that for the first time the world cup matches were held in 12 different cities that is really exceptional. Elaborate arrangements were made in all these 12 cities to facilitate spectators and teams as well. Interestingly, some matches were organized at the Amazon forest where weather normally is quite wet however the athletes enjoyed their matches in that area. Another encouraging aspect of the fixture was that Brazil was flooded with football fans especially from the neighboring counties such as Argentina.
Let me tell you that for the opening matches only over one hundred thousand Argentineans and from these Argentineans probably 75 per cent of them did not have tickets. Since they belonged to poor families from Argentina therefore they reached Brazil in shared cars and lived in shared accommodations. We had to arrange for their food also because many of them did not bring food with them. In general whosoever visited Brazil had a very good impression about Brazil. More than 20 heads of state of government attended the world cup which means no country can have more than 20 heads of state in a country in span of only one month.
With the world cup there was a changed perspective about Brazil in Pakistan. Those who had little interest in football have now become big fans of this game. The event heavily contributed to Brazil economy as well. Similarly our tourism industry also got a big boost. In a nutshell, I would say the football world cup was a great diplomatic success for Brazil.
Now you have completed your tenure in Pakistan. If you could give us a brief overview of your achievements during your stay here?
Let met begin with football world cup, there was a delegation headed by Faisal Saleh Hayat invited by FIFA to witness the world cup matches. We issued nearly 500 visas to those interested to go to Brazil to witness football matches. Why do we know that because we gave special visas. We waived off visa fee for the visitors. A person had to show ticket of at least one match. The tickets were verified by the FIFA. Those Pakistanis are not included in this 500 tally that already had Brazil multiple visas. So roughly we can say about 1,000 Pakistanis went to Brazil for world cup matches.
Regarding Brazil, Pakistan relations, I would say during my stay here many doors were opened vis a vis promotion of bilateral cooperation in various fields. We are much busier now as we used to be. The amount of visas that we used to issued four five years ago has almost doubled. Our economic and cultural sections at the Embassy are now every active and working assiduously towards cementing of bilateral relations. Especially our cooperation in the field of agriculture sector has been phenomenal and I hope mutual cooperation in this particular field would continue to grow even in the coming days.
Let me tell you that five years ago we had zero Pakistani students were in Brazil but now we have more than 100 Pakistani students so when these students go back to Pakistan they share their experiences about Brazil, which are extremely useful for Pakistani people to know more about Brazil and its culture. People to people diplomacy are yet another way to promote bilateral relations that is why my focus has been on further reinforcing such relations.
To increase volume of trade was my top most priority because if you have good trade relations, you can do many other things quite easily such as cultural events, sports activities and interaction in education sector. Brazil has been for many years the largest trading partner of Pakistan in Latin America, although our volume of trade is not that much significant and needs improvement. Our bilateral trade volume stands at $ 250 million per annum, which of course can reach USD one billion with a little bit of effort. Also allow me to say that if this trade is done directly without involving a third party the figures can also go up drastically.
Mohsin Hamid a renowned Pakistani writer went to Brazil to take part in FLIP literacy festival. Mohsin’s visit was part of Brazil embassy in Islamabad’s initiatives to promote literacy and cultural activities between the two countries. Mohsin had an opportunity to speak as a key speaker at the Round Table “8” of FLIP 2014, together with Brazilian writers Antonio parata and Tete Ribeiro. After FLIP Mohsin Hamid took part in some activities held in Rio de Janeiro.
Anything which you think could have done and was not done because your tenure has ended.
I wish I would have more resources to do what I have done but in a much wider scale. When I arrived in Pakistan four and half years ago, I realized Brazil was not well known in Pakistan. Brazil was only known because of football and carnival but I am pleased to tell you that Pakistani people now know Brazil for many reasons including its being a friendly country towards Muslims; a country that heartily welcomes Pakistani students; art lovers; businessmen and sportsmen. Pakistani people are very hard working and responsible. All those Pakistanis working at the embassy are surely putting in their best efforts for promotion of bilateral relations. Brazil, as you know, extended all possible help to Pakistan whenever it was hit by natural calamity such as earthquake or floods.
One of the reasons of Brazil’s doing well especially in economy is that it has no border disputes? Do you think Pakistan’s economy can also see a phenomenal growth if we are able to resolve our border disputes?
Brazil is doing quite well in terms of economy although we suffered due to economic downturn. Brazil has 7th largest economy in the world that is why we are considered an emerging economic power. Brazil is also member of BRICS, an organization that believes in South-South cooperation. We understand that many developing countries can benefit from the Brazilian experience. 20 years ago Brazil was also in bad economic situation; inflation was very high coupled with low economic growth. But Brazil is now a stable country and key to our success lies in a robust economic plan. Our economic experts put their heads together to find out a viable economic plan so as to put the country on road to development. Another hallmark of that plan was its being pragmatic in nature. Continuity in polices is yet another feature that contributed heavily towards success of that economic plan.
As we can see Brazil is fast becoming a global player from a regional player and also intends to become permanent member of the Security Council. Can you tell us a bit more about it? And why you think Security Council expansion is necessary?
We cannot have a Security Council that, aside from the addition of a few non-permanent members, remains the same since 1945. The world has changed enormously since then. The number of countries has quadrupled. New agendas, such as the environment and human rights, have emerged.
A more representative, legitimate and efficient Security Council would require the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent categories, to include both developed and developing countries. Along with many like-minded countries, Brazil supports the creation of six additional permanent seats: two for Asia, two for Africa, one for Latin America and one for Western Europe; as well as four additional non-permanent seats – one each for Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Brazil has the credentials to occupy a permanent seat in the Security Council. These credentials include our long tradition in favour of peaceful solutions to conflicts, our substantial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations and our actions in promoting the interests of developing countries, which form the majority of the international community but remain under-represented in many world bodies. With the world’s 5th largest population, 5th biggest area and 7th largest economy, Brazil has all the resources necessary to assume greater responsibilities within the UN system.