Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Mr. Carlos Morales Ambassador of Spain gave an exclusive interview to Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA). The ambassador, inter alia, touched upon issues related to bilateral as well multilateral spheres. He particularly talked about cooperation between Spain and Pakistan and underlined various steps with a view to further cementing these relations. Excerpts from his interview.
To begin, we must extend our compliments for the wonderful Flamenco Festival at PNCA recently. Please share some more details of the event and do you plan to arrange more music concerts in the future also?
As you know the artists performed in three cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. The purpose of such cultural activities is of course to promote and strengthen bilateral relations. We do hope, we will be able to continue such activities even in the coming days, though it is not an easy job to arrange such shows for it involves huge finances. I would like to praise the role of the Turkish Airlines which enabled us to organize this wonderful performance. The artists had a good visit to Karachi during which they were able to buy some musical instruments and also visited places of tourist attraction in the biggest city of Pakistan. For the future we will like to repeat this experience and at the same time we will arrange other cultural activities like screening of movies reflecting Spanish culture. For cultural activities in the future, we are already in contact with the cultural wing of the Ministry of Information and hopefully we will be able to do come up with something worthwhile.
How important, in your view, are cultural relations in promotion of bilateral relations?
Trade and economic relations between Spain and Pakistan will be the main mission and focus of my stay here so that we greatly enhance the trade volume with Pakistan. Pakistan being a 200 million people country has tremendous economic potential which in my opinion is grossly underutilized. There is surely so much that we can do together in trade and for each other’s economy, and my special focus is to encourage more and more exports from Pakistan to Spain and other European Union countries. GSP plus is already in vogue, which covers almost 80 different areas including textile sector. While at this stage I will not comment on our current level of bilateral trade yet I am confident there is much that can be done to improve the trade volume. In the last two years Pakistani exports to Spain in the field of textile, have seen a 50 per cent increase, thanks to the GSP plus initiative. Our attention is to explore how to diversify the exports to other products also.
With regards to Spanish exports to Pakistan they are showing a gradual increase. Ostensibly we need to do much more to attract more and more Spanish companies to come to Pakistan. However, we must bear in the in mind that image and perception of a country is the sine qua non to attract foreign investments.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative is indeed a game changer, which is likely to generate robust business activity. The Chinese investments of 45 billion dollars in fact have put Pakistan back on the investment map. The visit of the Chinese president last year is very reassuring which has lent credence to the importance and significance of the CPEC in the region.
Understandably, Pakistan’s image abroad is not rightly perceived. Now that you have spent quite some time here what is you assessment of the Pakistan situation especially in terms of security?
I must share with you that I have received many enquiries from Spanish companies about the business prospects in Pakistan, though security is their primary concern. Legal security may not be an important issue which relates to corruption because you have to deal with such issues in many countries of the world. Nevertheless the businessmen are more concerned about their physical security and political stability. My predecessor did a lot to woo Spanish companies to come to Pakistan, however, they were reluctant to come here because of security concerns. Some time back a briefing for the Spanish companies in the field of renewable energy was arranged in Karachi, which went quite well. The briefing also helped change the perception of the Spanish companies who attended the briefing about the security situation of Pakistan.
Pakistan also needs to improve its soft image and one way of doing it is to empower women of Pakistan. Women need to occupy the public space. You need to see women in all fields including politics, parliament, media, business etc. I do agree with the quota system especially for women they now have a sufficient representation in all fields.
Another way to improve a country’s image is by undertaking a vigorous PR exercise. As we can see some of Pakistan’s neighbours have already exhibited good PR skills and undertaken some well thought marketing and branding campaigns of their countries both at home and abroad. The ultimate goal of the entire exercise was to attract more and more foreign investments, in which they have been highly successful.
As regards war on terror, there is no doubt that Pakistan armed forces and civilians have rendered tremendous sacrifices to root out the menace of terrorism. We also acknowledge that the military is doing its utmost to safeguard lives of people. Yet it is very important, that the vulnerable segments of the society that are prone to falling prey to the designs of the miscreants need to be engaged. Both the military and the government have a vital role to play in this regard and I am certain that they are very well aware of the complexities of this issue.
Spain like other countries is also facing an influx of illegal immigrants and unfortunately reports suggest that people from Pakistan are also amongst those who try to enter Spain illegally which has recently been curtailed considerably. Please share your views.
We have a big Pakistan community living in Spain that is why we have to deal with a number of applications particularly concerning family reunion. Generally speaking Pakistanis are very well integrated into the Spanish system and even some of them are now taking part in Spanish politics. The encouraging aspect with regards to Pakistanis living in Spain is that they have never faced any issues of racism or discrimination despite the economic problems that Spain went through.
We have been facing problems of migrants emanating mainly from our immediate neighbors such as Morocco and Algeria and sub-Saharan countries. We have tried to assist these people in various fields so that at the end of the day, the influx of migrants is effectively controlled.
Likewise, we are also closely working with the Pakistani authorities to curb the trend of illegal migrants under the umbrella of what is called the European Pakistan Readmission Agreement.
Tourism is yet another sector that Pakistan can benefit a lot from Spanish experience. What is your take on this?
I always say that we do not have oil but we do have tourism. Tourism represents 11 per cent of the Spanish GDP. We are the second country of the world that generates huge revenue from tourism. In 2015, Spain hosted 68 million tourists, which is a huge number. Undoubtedly, tourism creates a lot of jobs but at the same time it places tremendous responsibilities on the host country to make it attractive and viable. The important areas are a stable security situation coupled with state of the art road infrastructure and a very good service sector. Pakistan is a country which is full of historical and beautiful tourist sites all of which can attract very high tourist flow provided this industry is given the professional attention warranted for it. Enhanced tourism in Pakistan will generate massive revenue and create endless job opportunities for the youth. Spain can definitely help Pakistan in organizing the tourism sector.
What in your view are the key factors/steps that will lead to a true democratic system in a country?
In my opinion democracy is synonymous to responsibility. Everybody has to exercise responsibility in a democratic system. Pakistan, despite the military coups, remains a vibrant society. There is a natural drive for democracy in Pakistan and I think you have to learn from the past mistakes. A proper system of checks and balances also helps promote the democratic order in a country. The road to a true democratic system of course is long and arduous, however, I think this goal can be achieved by ensuring uninterrupted continuation of a political order.
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti