Pakistani Ambassador: Commonalities keep us together
  • | | March 23, 2010 04:15 PM

On the occasion of the National Day of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, March 23, Pakistan's Ambassador to Vietnam, Shahid Kiani, sat down with DTiNews to discuss the current relationship between Vietnam and Pakistan, its progress, and its future:

How do you see the Vietnam and Pakistan relationship?

- Pakistan and Vietnam relations are extremely good. There are no issues which keep us apart, rather there are many commonalities which bring us together. Pakistan established relations with Vietnam in 1972 at a time when both countries were coming out of very difficult situations. Since then, there has been a realisation from both sides that they should work together. While both sides know this, there hasn't been high-level relations established. The role of the embassy since I got here, has been to give my humble effort to reach out to your leaders and to your people. People are, in my estimation, the most important factor. They are the ones who carry the message and I believe that an international relationship is only good as long as the common people benefit from it.

There have been two trade delegations to visit Vietnam in the past five months, what were the outcomes?

- One of them was a pharmaceutical delegation. There are two important Pakistani companies which are part of the group of companies who are selling prescription drugs in Vietnam. The delegation that came held meetings about continued partnership which were excellent. The other delegation that came was related to the very high-quality leather produced in Pakistan. They met to discuss long-term plans. Some of the very large trading houses in Ho Chi Minh City were very impressed with the quality of the leather and because Vietnam makes value-added things, for example, shoes, the best thing is, we are not competing with Vietnam. Items like these can then be used towards value-added projects. This is a very big plus as we can cooperate on joint ventures.

You have said that you are here to make friends with not just officials, but also the common people. How are you going about this?

- As soon as I got here, I took part in a charity bizarre that sold food and items which were collected and used in charity to help the Vietnamese. I also took part in a charity walk for the Asian Development Bank. I keep in touch with the Vietnamese universities as I'm trying my level best to ensure Vietnamese can get fully-paid scholarships to study in Pakistan. If students see Pakistan, then they come back with a better idea. The only thing Pakistan's people think [about Vietnam] is "Vietnam War" but the new generation of Vietnam, they don't want to live in the past. Countries with which Vietnam had difficulties in the past, they are now here and very comfortable. They speak highly of Vietnam just as I do, like them I love Vietnamese people. I am now in the process of getting Pakistani footballs. We produce one of the finest footballs in the world and we will give these footballs to schools in Vietnam as a gift from Pakistan. It's through these kind of actions that I want to be known as a people's ambassador.

It seems that the tourism exchange between the two countries is not high, what can be done?

- Not much is known between the people. The people of Vietnam don't know much about Pakistan and the people of Pakistan don't know much about Vietnam. For a long time, there has been no people-to-people contact between the two countries. Many people [from Vietnam] might be deterred because of security concerns. We are in the midst of a very difficult challenge to eliminate terrorists and extremists. Pakistan is an Islamic country and yes, most of the people are Muslims, but there are Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and more. They are also very happy there. It's the extremists that don't think like us. We are trying to push them back and that is where we need your understanding. The message is that Pakistan is a tolerant country and we need Vietnamese to come see it with their own eyes, as we need to see Vietnam. The first person I met when I came here was the chief monk and I called on him because I think he's an important person and religious respect and understanding are important in order to understand Vietnam. I'm working with my government to bring some chefs from Pakistan and some people that can be involved in the World Food Festival in Vung Tau. This is a way to really allow people to explore these different cultures.

Are there any issues besides the obvious trade issues, are there any global issues that Vietnam and Pakistan are working on together?

- Vietnam was a very successful member of the security council in the past two years. During that time, Pakistan was also actively engaged in reaching consensus on many issues from terrorism, extremism, to climate change. We (Vietnam/Pakistan) have no issues which keep us apart but many commonalities which keep us together. We have a mission. The main objective is to reach out to you, to enlarge the relationship so that when I leave this embassy, whenever the time is, I can look back and say I made a difference from A to B. Not from A to Z, that's impossible. At this moment, the leadership, this country has had such great leadership like Bac Ho (Ho Chi Minh). Your Prime Minister, your President, they are very frank, and they are talking about issues that need to be addressed.

Thank you Mr. Ambassador!

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