Opening Statement by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Co-chair Pak-Bahrain Joint Ministerial Commission (Monday, 06 February 2017)
Bismillah HiRahman NiRahim
Excellency, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain and the Co-Chair of Pak-Bahrain JMC.
Distinguished delegates from both sides
It is a matter of great honor and privilege for me to welcome Excellency, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs, of the Kingdom of Bahrain as well as all distinguished delegates from Bahrain for the inaugural Session of Joint Ministerial Commission between Pakistan and Bahrain.
Pakistan greatly values its long standing relations with the brotherly country of Kingdom of Bahrain. In order to institutionalize bilateral cooperation, Pakistan-Bahrain Joint Economic Committee (at the level of senior officials) was established in 1983. During committee's last meeting, several important decisions of mutual benefit were taken especially in the fields of economy, finance, banking, information technology, information, industry, manpower, education, culture, trade and investment. Since then, there has been important progress on all these strands including conclusion of new MoUs and agreements. However, it was felt that a more focused and enhanced effort was required to translate the gains of discussions on various threads into beneficial projects and outcomes. I am confident that the up-gradation of the forum as 'Joint Ministerial Commission' would provide the required thrust to take our bilateral cooperation to the next level. I also hope that both sides will pay special attention to consultative mechanism that will ensure effective implementation of JMCs decisions.
The historic visit by His Royal Highness King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa in 2014 and the return visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2015 not only paved the way for establishing this Joint Commission but also provided fresh impetus to further strengthening of fraternal bonds between our two countries.
One of the notable outcomes of His Majesty's visit was his generous gift of King Hamad Nursing University to Pakistan. The project, which has a capacity of training 2,000 students, 500 of them graduating every year, was recently jointly inaugurated on 6th January 2017 by the Prime Minister of Pakistan and His Excellency Lt. Gen. Shaikh Muhammed bin Isa, Commander of National Guards of Bahrain. I am confident that this project will serve as an icon of the traditional friendship and brotherly relations between our two countries. We are indebted and grateful to His Majesty for this generous gift to the people of Pakistan, which will also provide opportunities for trained medical personnel to also serve our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
As you are well aware, Pakistan and Bahrain share several common objectives and have similarity of views on many international issues related to peace, security, regional developments, terrorism, extremism, regional security, non-proliferation and also support each other in multi-lateral fora like the UN, OIC and WTO. These commonalities provide a sound foundation to build robust and dynamic relations for the mutual benefit of the people of both countries.
You would agree that we are passing through difficult times. The Muslim Ummah is faced with daunting challenges of terrorism, extremism, sectarianism which have resulted in a serious security and economic crisis. In this rapidly changing geo-strategic environment, there is a strong need that Pakistan and Bahrain strengthen mutual cooperation in the fields of defence and security. Establishment of a structured mechanism like Pakistan-GCC strategic forum would provide opportunity for regular consultations and cooperation in various fields, particularly close coordination in intelligence-sharing and counter-terrorism, war on drugs, economic and trade sectors and other areas of mutual interest.
Pakistan has been one of the first countries to bear the brunt of scourge of terrorism. However, by grace of Allah the Almighty, today we have achieved relative stability by decisively defeating the terrorist threat in our country. This success is an outcome of the vision and steadfastness of Pakistan's leadership, the blood and toil of its valiant armed forces, and the enviable resilience and unshakeable faith of its people. Today, Alhamdulillah, as a lead player in the volatile global security environment, Pakistan is a net provider, rather than a net taker, of security in the region. This was made possible by Pakistan's determined action, since 2014, against all terror networks in the country, without distinction or discrimination.
This hard earned stability in the country has paved the way for enhanced economic activity and progress not only in Pakistan but in the entire region. The ongoing China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has immense potential to take our region to a new level of development and prosperity. We would welcome my Bahraini brothers to benefit from our expertise in countering terrorism and the CPEC project.
Trade serves as a catalyst in improving political and economic relations between countries. However, our bilateral trade is presently much below the potential of both countries. Leadership of both countries are fully cognizant of this fact. You would recall, Excellency, that during the King of Bahrain's visit to Pakistan, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had particularly emphasized strengthening of bilateral relations, especially in trade, investment and energy.
It is heartening to note that a B2B meeting was held in September, 2016 at Manama. This regular business to business contact must continue. Taking this opportunity I would also request the honorable Bahraini Co-Chair to use his good offices to encourage businessmen from Bahrain to participate in Expo-Pakistan 2017. Also, I expect progress on establishing an institutionalized mechanism for enhanced interaction between the chambers of commerce of the two countries. Discussion on finding workable solutions for removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers should also be a high priority area for this JMC to enhance bilateral trade. I eagerly look forward to tangible progress in this area
Pakistan has been confronted with energy shortage for the past few years. The present government has undertaken several projects and initiatives to improve power generation, diversify our energy mix and plug systemic inefficiencies like pilferages and line losses to overcome this acute shortage.
For further bolstering these initiatives Pakistan would welcome Bahraini investments in mega-projects, particularly in the field of energy, downstream oil industry and port development.
The Government of Pakistan is also very keen to forge sustained industrial cooperation between Pakistan and Bahrain. We are particularly looking for export of heavy engineering goods, surgical instruments and consumer durable goods being produced here under licensing arrangements with international market leaders. Bahrain may benefit from the import of these competitive Pakistani products which we consider our strength.
Bahrain has been one of the favorite destination for Pakistanis since the early seventies. Bahrain currently hosts over 100,000 Pakistanis, who are contributing to the socio-economic development of the Kingdom and are a strong bridge between the peoples of two countries.
Likewise, there are several Bahraini nationals who have their origin from Pakistan. Some of them are living in Bahrain for almost three generations. They are also an important asset for Pakistan.
Pakistan has a surplus of properly trained and certified skilled and semi-skilled manpower in various sectors including engineering, medical and education etc. The National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) and the Technical Education and Vocation Training Authority (TEVTA) of Pakistan are providing tailor-made courses to potential workers seeking jobs in the Gulf countries. I will request Bahraini government to utilize the services of Pakistani skilled and semi-skilled manpower so that it can more meaningfully contribute in the impressive development currently taking place in Manama and all across the Kingdom of Bahrain.
I take this opportunity to share briefly with you the top policy priorities of the Government for spurring economic growth and restoring the confidence of the business community. Pakistan is committed to offering a secure and enabling environment to investors in all sectors of the economy. There are ample opportunities for investors with 100% equity or joint ventures in various fields. The success of our investment policy is amply demonstrated by the fact that over 1,000 multinational companies are currently successfully operating in Pakistan in various sectors of the economy. The latest investments being made by the People's Republic of China are a testimony to the confidence that investors enjoy in Pakistan.
On behalf of the Government of Pakistan I can assure you of an investment-friendly regime that offers lucrative financial incentives and conducive business environment in the dedicated 'Special Economic Zones'. There will be very profitable investment opportunities for Bahraini investors in the industrial parks being established under CPEC.
I am also confident that besides economic and investment interactions both our countries can benefit tremendously from youth, cultural intellectual and artisan exchanges.
Let me once again warmly welcome you and your delegation to Pakistan. I look forward to very pragmatic discussions on bilateral economic relations by the experts of our two countries, which I am confident will further deepen our bilateral relationship. I wish the delegates a comfortable and enjoyable stay in Pakistan.