Atheer – Oliver Allan / Mukhtar Al Hinai
Pakistani Minister of Planning and Development and Minister of Interior, His Excellency Ahsan Iqbal, was in the Sultanate for the Oman Ports Conference, which took place two days ago to discuss the importance of ports in maritime trade, ways in which to develop Omani ports and the role of logistics in port integration. Atheer caught up with Iqbal, in order to find out about his visit, as well as about Omani-Pakistani relations within this field.
“The Omani government is making big investments to develop maritime trade potential, due to its strategic location,” he said. “Pakistan also is now appearing on the maritime trade map, through the China Pakistan corridor, which is a fifty billion dollar project in which China is helping Pakistan develop Gwadar as a major port, as well as develop road rail connectivity with China.”
Iqbal explained that this initiative envisages the integration of South Asia, China and Central Asia through a series of connectivity projects, going on to note that by 2050 Asia is expected to account for 52 percent of the global GDP.
“Within Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and China are three very important engines of growth and Pakistan happens to be located at the intersection of these three engines of growth. We hope that the connectivity projects will help bring collaboration and cooperation among these regional economies,” Iqbal added. “That will create new growth opportunities for not only the region but only for global business.”
The minister went on to say that one important purpose of his current visit to the Sultanate was to discuss opportunities for connecting the China-Pakistan economic corridor with Oman’s development projects, something he said that he was discussing with Omani leadership.
“We can take this corridor into Africa by making use of Oman’s strategic position and this is a great opportunity for Oman and Pakistan to work together.”
Going on to speak about the Pakistani economy, Iqbal stressed that fact that it had turned around significantly in recent years, explaining that Pakistan is hoping to achieve a six percent growth rate this year, having achieved a 5.3 percent growth rate last year. He noted that as a country of two hundred million people Pakistan offers great business opportunities for investors from all over the world. Iqbal confirmed that the two sides had also discussed opportunities for closer cooperation between Pakistan and Omani businessmen, as well as for an increase in trade between the two countries.
“His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has been instrumental in ensuring peace and stability and developing a modern twenty first century infrastructure, particularly the maritime trade infrastructure, which is being constructed through new ports,” stated the minister, before going on to touch upon the importance of cooperation between countries of the Indian Ocean.
“Given the fact that this region is going to become very important, all countries need to cooperate and stay clear of conflict, as the only thing that can hamper the economic progress of the region is conflict. We look forward to turning the geo-strategy theatre of our region into a geo-economics arena, in which countries can cooperate to create opportunities.”
Furthermore, on the topic of agreements signed between the two countries, Ahsan Iqbal revealed that Oman and Pakistan had discussed a number of initiatives and were hopeful that a senior level Omani delegation would be visiting Pakistan. He added that Pakistan is hopeful that the Sultanate would be sending a senior delegation to Gwadar Port, in order to examine opportunities for cooperation.
“We have also discussed cooperation within the field of security. Particularly these talks centred around the topic of better cooperation in immigration, to facilitate visas for officials from both countries and also to have an understanding on the transfer of prisoners from Oman, so to finish their term of sentence in Pakistan. We also discussed the cooperation in the field of industry and trade and I’ve also extended an invitation to the Minister of Industry to Visit Pakistan.”
The minister rounded off by stating that Pakistan was also keen to learn from Oman with regard to border management, given some of the issues that Pakistan is facing at present, citing the Sultanate’s experiences in managing its border with Yemen, referring to the techniques as “effective, modern techniques for border management.”