Islamabad, November 29, 2012 (PPI-OT): Speakers at a roundtable session viewed that there was a huge potential of cooperation between Pakistan and Scandinavian countries which needs to be capitalized for their mutual benefit and stressed the need to have an exclusive Scandinavian perspective and narrative on important global issues based on objective analysis and evaluations instead of looking at them through the US prism.
The roundtable titled “Pakistan-Scandinavia: Perceptions, Potential and Pathways” was jointly organized by Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad and Pakistan-Norway Association (PANA). The panelists of the discussion included Lars-Hjalmar Wide, Ambassador of Sweden, Khalid Rahman, Director General IPS, Amir Iftikhar Warraich, former president of PANA, Atle Hetland, senior Norwegian social scientist, Dr. Sabiha Syed, Executive Director, Migration Group, Petter Eide, Country representative of Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) Pakistan, Air Cdre. (r) Khalid Iqbal, member IPS National Academic Council, and Hina Akhtar, Pakistani-Danish Communication Consultant while M. Riazul Haque, member IPS-NAC moderated the discussion.
Ambassador Lars-Hjalmar realized the need to carry out dialogue on the tricky issues between Pakistan and Sweden and explore the pathways to expand cooperation on the areas of mutual interest. He said that there was a huge potential to work together in the sectors of infrastructure building, alternative energy solution, and environmental friendly technologies.
He noted that public-private sector partnership and good governance were the key elements for economic prosperity of any country. Dispersing the impression that Sweden was a neutral player in the global issues, he argued that that the country was keen to bring peace in the world and no more a neutral player on the global issues.
Atle Hetland noted that other countries need to learn lessons from the Scandinavian Model which enabled Scandinavia to become probably the most prosperous and economically successful part of the world. He pointed out that transparency, equality, democracy were the ethos which made Scandinavia so successful model.
Khalid Rahman, orientating the participants with the brief overview of Pak-Scandinavia ties stated that some of the relatively less focused European countries such as Scandinavian states need relatively greater focus, as being the active players in global development cooperation the study of dynamics of Pakistan’s ties with all such countries assumes no less significance.
He informed that the total two-way trade between Pakistan and these countries was around $ 880 million, significant but below the potential that exists, particularly a huge potential exists for enhancing Pakistan’s exports and bringing investments from Scandinavia into Pakistan’s various potential sectors.
Amir Iftikhar Warraich stressed the need to address the issues of mass perception of Pakistan in Scandinavia, poor governance and security situation in the country to attract more investment and other business ventures from Scandinavian countries.
Speaking on strategic dimensions, Air Cdre. (r) Khalid Iqbal was of the view that toeing of the American line, by and large, put the Scandinavian countries in the same bracket as America viz a viz Pakistani public opinion.
Dr. Sabiha Syed highlighted the imbalance in the perceptions pertaining to Pakistan and resolving the issues of security and governance to attract the investment from the Scandinavian countries. She urged that media on both the sides should come up with images closer to reality and avoid making overgeneralizations and stereotyping on some sporadic but unfortunate incidents. She remarked that Pakistani diaspora while remaining intact to the indigenous cultural values was making tremendous progress in all walks of life including the decision making forums.
Hina Akhtar, Pakistani-Danish Communication Consultant said that the positive perception of Pakistan in the media discourse could prove the key factor to tap the available opportunities and harness the economic potentials between the Pakistan and Scandinavian countries.
Petter Eide remarked that sizeable number of Pakistani diaspora were living in Norwegian countries and making significant contribution in the socio political life but the issues of misperception affect their economic well being which need to be addressed.
M. Riazul Haque stressed the need to address the issues that come in the way of two-way relationship between Pakistan and Scandinavia and the steps needed to increase foreign investment inflows as well as people to people contacts.
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