“Our hope and ambition is to build stronger economic ties with Pakistan”

Exclusive interview with Ambassador of Denmark

His Excellency Rolf Holmboe

The  Consul’s Diplomatic Correspondent held an exclusive interview with

Ambassador of Denmark. Exceprts from the interview:

Question: Denmark is an important member of the European Union and we know it has a good history in human rights. You know people in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir are facing worst human rights abuses and Demark being among the champions of the human rights can play an important role, individually and within the EU, to stop the Indian government from suppressing the Kashmiri people. Secondly, other minority groups including the Muslims in India are facing worst times in history. What role Denmark can play in this regard?

Answer: Denmark is firmly committed to the universal rights of all people as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a cornerstone for all of us in the United Nations. Denmark is also committed to the promulgation of human rights in all parts of the world: human rights is a key component if you want to build equitable, happy and prosperous societies. Human rights is the sole basis for peace and prosperity at the global level. Any persecution of any minority, religious, sexual or other, in any country is not only wrong and in conflagration with the commitments made by all nations, it is also highly detrimental to that society itself. All countries have obligations to respect the fundamental freedoms, and also to defend them, when it is necessary.

Q: Denmark is also a member of the FATF. Do you believe Pakistan has taken impressive measures in line with the FATF guidelines to come out of the FATF’s grey list or it needs more step to avoid blacklisting?

Ans: The progress that Pakistan has made in implementing its Action Plan agreed with FATF has been good, even if there are still a number of issues outstanding. It is clear to see the real commitment of the Government and the increased coordination of efforts, and there have been encouraging signs of progress. I think we all in FATF look forward to the day when Pakistan lives up to all its commitments to the full and can come off the grey list! This is not only something to get Pakistan of the FATF Grey List . curbing financing for extremist and terrorist organisations is something that is hugely useful for Pakistan too – and a key element in Pakistan’s socio-economic development!

Q: Again on tourism, Denmark is a popular destination for tourists. What scope do you see in this sector between Pakistan and Denmark in terms of promoting tourism and sharing experiences?

Ans: There are so many fantastic sites in Pakistan, and there is a great potential for developing tourism in Pakistan. Right now, what we are seeing is occasional groups and individual tourists visiting Pakistan. If you want to attract bulk tourism in real important numbers, and this is where the real economic benefit is, Pakistan needs to develop a real tourist infrastructure at its’ top sites – that is what the great tourist nations of this world have done. It involves for instance the possibility of landing charter aircraft direct at Gilgit or Skardu in the North – and a range of tourist hotels from the five-star to the three-star level that are price competitive compared to prices in other tourist destinations. Tour operators operating at competitive and transparent prices is also a must – Pakistan will be competing against tourist nations that can offer visits to great global attractions at very competitive and fixed and transparent prices. A first step will be to facilitate “package tours” which is attractive to many tourists. This is where a tour operator offers a full trip with most elements included in the fixed total price– people like that because it is transparent and they can see what the cost to them will be. And, of course, there must be access to restaurants with wine and beer!

Q: Is Denmark looking to extend any assistance to Pakistan as a result of latest crises of COVID-19?

Ans: Denmark – like other EU partners – is increasing financial support manifold for those international organizations and NGOs that are channelling support to countries that have limited capabilities to deal with the crisis, and that economically will be more affected by the Corona Crisis. This is in particular through the UN organizations and others. Denmark is already a major donor to managing the refugee situation in Pakistan and has been so for many years!

Q: Has Denmark assured Pak of providing some medical equipment like kits and ventilators required for Corona cases?

Ans:These are actually not items that we produce very much in Denmark, we have imported them from other countries as well. But of course this has changed and we are also producing these items now, so who knows there might be some possibilities in the future!

Q: How does Denmark see the role of Pakistan in latest Afghan crises?

Ans: The engagement of Pakistan in helping to ensure a peace agreement in Afghanistan has been extremely positive and we have come further than ever before. I believe Pakistan’s engagement is crucial – many of the solutions to this war lies in the region. And the good thing is that it is a win-win situation. Peace in Afghanistan is of huge benefit to the people of Afghanistan, but also of great economic importance for Pakistan in terms of economic access to for instance China and the Central Asian countries. It would also resolve a massive refugee situation that Pakistan has had for more than 40 years now.

Q: What’s your vision of Pakistan-Denmark friendship in the years to come?

Ans: Our hope and ambition is to build greater economic ties between our countries in terms of trade and economic projects together. We have great experiences with cooperation and joint ventures between Pakistani and Danish companies – the Danish company can help their Pakistani partner to export to the global markets – the lack of understanding of and access to the global markets is the great weakness of Pakistani companies in general – and the Pakistani company can build a qualitative and price-competitive production of items that are in demand on the global markets. Some of these partnerships today form the backbone of Pakistani exports!

I would like to mention here two renowned Danish sports goods companies and a textile companies that have long partnerships with Pakistani companies. Together, they are exporting world class soccer balls and textiles from Pakistan to a number of high-end markets. It gives me great pleasure to inform that Denmark is financing a 130 million Euro waste water treatment plant in Faisalabad, which is by far the largest Danish investment in Pakistan in the last years.

Energy is another area where Denmark can provide very efficient and state of the solutions to Pakistan. For instance, Pakistan has a great potential to exploit its abundantly available wind resources to produce green and low cost energy. The upcoming Alternative and Renewable Energy (ARE) Policy sets the target of enhancing share of renewables in country’s energy mix to 30% by 2030. Vestas, the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturing company from Denmark has expressed a keen interest to collaborate with the Government of Pakistan to meet this ambitious target.

These examples are just some of the many possibilities to enhance our cooperation and further strengthen Pakistan-Denmark friendship!

Q: What is the number of Pakistanis living in Denmark and what are their contributions in the development of your country?

Ans: We have about 20 – 30 thousand citizens of Pakistani origin in Denmark. We have had a good many Members of Parliament from Pakistani origin and a number top-tier journalists in Denmark have a background in Pakistan. There are a good number in the Police Force and in the Army – all contributing and integrating into the society they have chosen to live in. Some have prioritized education – which is free for all in Denmark and university students are even given a monthly stipend by the State of app. 1000 USD to live from – and have gone into highly qualified work in the economy or in the public institutions. By far the greater number are integrating well and contributing, but of course there are always those who do not and they tend to give everybody else a bad reputation.

Q: Are you satisfied with the current trade volume between the two countries or do you think it can be enhanced and in which sectors?

Ans: Over the last 4 -5 years we have almost doubled the trade volume between Denmark and Pakistan – and we mostly talk exports from Pakistan to Denmark – and our ambition – the ambition of our Trade Council here at the Embassy – is to double and redouble this every year. We are hoping that the current tariff constraints will soon be lifted – they are hurting trade both ways because they are cutting these cooperations between companies in Pakistan and on the outside that Pakistan is so dependent upon.

Q: Can you identify some of the Denmark’s industrial, agricultural products that can be exported to Pakistan?

Ans: Machinery and other inputs for high-quality production is needed, if Pakistan wants to produce at quality and price levels that can allow products to sell on the global markets. In the food & agri sector there are huge opportunities for improvement – and without it, Pakistan could find it hard to expand export markets. Denmark also have a number of global-leading pharmaceutical products that address some of the ailments that are so prevalent in Pakistan. Novo Nordisk for instance is a world leader in treating diabetes, and a large proportion of the population here have it. A company Lundbeck has state-of-the-art products for depression and related diseases that are also a huge problem in Pakistan, even if it is stigmatized and talked about. But if it is treated, you need not suffer so much from it and you can return to work much faster.

Denmark is a partner in infrastructure and logistics – not least with MAERSK, the world’s largest shipping line, providing fast, reliable and cheaper transport of goods from Pakistan to any market in the world. Also, there a number of products that Pakistanis could benefit from – advanced dairy products from ARLA, in electronics like DYNAUDIO etc. The benefit for Pakistan of imports are that they create completion with locally produced goods. Without that competition, Pakistani products will generally not rise to the price/quality level that makes them competitive – and thus exportable to the global markets.

For Pakistan, the solution to the economic crisis lies not in a closed market and a planned economy. That has been tried, and it has dismally failed. The solution lies in global integration into the global value chains, and that can only happen if Pakistan can produce at competitive price/quality levels, and that can only be achieved through more competition, not less.

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