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Turkish, Italian CGs Interviewed

KARACHI: Turkish (’17) and Italian (’21) CGs speak about bilateral relationships, lives and works. 

NPTV: Why you opted to be posted as Consul General of Italy to Karachi?

DG: I was in Pakistan before I was posted here. So I had the opportunity to see the real Pakistan, not the one that certain people might think of.  So I decided to come here to Karachi – particularly to Karachi – because I think it is a city of opportunities. There is a lot of opportunity for development. So there is a lot to do: it is a very big city; it has a thriving environment; people are very welcoming. So that’s why I wanted to come here to work and to improve relations between Italy and Pakistan.

NPTV: Italy is known for its fashion, tourism, cuisine and arts around the world. What are the other sectors where Italy has a competitive edge?

DG: Italy has this image of a country where we are able to produce beautiful things because of our long history, because of our love for culture, because of our heritage. But it is sometimes not very well known to the general public that we have certain industry sector in which we are the leading or one of the leading countries in the world. For instance, many sectors in the machinery field. For instance, textile machinery that we exported to Pakistan are supposed to be some of the best produced in the world.

There are many fields, for instance, shipbuilding. In the field of ship-building we are one of the leading countries in the world. We have a company which is called Fincantieri which is the biggest ship-building company in all of Europe and the 4th biggest in the world. So, we certainly do have a competitive edge in those sectors. And Pakistan has also the opportunity to evaluate the quality of our products.

NPTV: There are many goods & commodities imported from Italy. What are the major commodities and goods that Italy exports to Pakistan?

DG: Italy exports many things to Pakistan. As I was saying (mostly) our biggest export to Pakistan is (make up of) machinery: machinery for textile will be the first commodity. Especially in Sindh, also in Punjab. In all the textile-producing cities you will find Italian textile machines. So it has been a very tong tradition. And I think we do have a competitive edge because of the way many Italian companies operate and work.

Like in Pakistan, many Italian businesses are family-owned. So they have this family tradition. They have this family history. And they are very proud of their machines or what they do. They want their products to be the best. And when they sell they just don’t drop-off their products and say ‘Ok! You paid, this is the product!’ They also want to come here to do the maintenance to see that their product is used in a good fashion. If there is a problem they will help. So it is this kind of family atmosphere that is also part of the Pakistani culture. And this is why I think that the Italian and Pakistani businessmen go very well together in this sector.

Then there are also other sectors: For instance, chemical sector, then there is very good cooperation in defense sector. But I think there are more avenues of cooperation that we could be doing business today.

NPTV: Pakistan is mostly known in the world for exporting textiles. What other goods and commodities do you think Pakistan has the potential produces of good quality that can be exported globally?

DG: Pakistan is very well-known for the exports of textile and also in Italy the first export of Pakistan is textile products, especially home textile. So in Italy basically most of the covers (for instance for sofas) come from Pakistan, it is very very common product in Italy.

And Italy is one of the main export markets for Pakistan. This year we should be the eighth export market for Pakistan. So, certainly one of the first countries globally and one of the first in EU. However, there are many more areas in which Pakistan could be renowned for its exports.

I tell you one thing that it is little known: Pakistan is the first exporter of Basmati Rice in Italy, I think that 70% of Basmati Rice in Italy comes from Pakistan. It is a little-known fact but it shows that Pakistan is very competitive in food products. I think that one sector that we might explore in Pakistan is also the food processing.

There are very good mangoes but you can do a lot of things with mangoes: mango juice and so many products. You have very good fruits also. So I think this is another export that we could add. Also many other fields, many other industry fields that I think Pakistan might have a competitive edge. There are many opportunities to be tapped in this country and this is the reason I chose to be posted here.

NPTV: Besides trade and commerce, what are the other areas of cooperation between Italy and Pakistan?

DG: Trade is a very important means of cooperation and with the Embassy we are trying to improve trade ties. Numbers are good between Italy and Pakistan but I think there is room for improvement in many fields. However, we should not limit diplomacy only to economy, only to trade. There is also the cultural side; there is also the social sector, for instance. There are many ties that can be built and strengthened.

As far as cultural cooperation is concerned: the Bhambhore archaeological site is run jointly by the Sindh Government and by an Italian archaeological mission from the University of Milan. This is being going on for a long time. It is a very nice cultural project in preserving the historical heritage of Sindh. So this is something which is very dear to me.

In Italy there is particular expertise in preserving cultural heritage. They come from all over the world, from United States, to study in our university. I wish to do more. I wish to add more such projects. Because you do have a very long history in Pakistan. A history that is even older than Italian culture.

NPTV: Italy and Pakistan are two countries that are very rich in culture and history. What are the commonalities that exist between the two countries in your opinion?

DG: There are many commonalities I found. First of all, as I was saying we both have an ancient history and we are very proud of our history. Secondly, what we share from that – I think this comes from our culture (we love our culture). We are family-based societies. For us values are very important. We value what is our culture and this is something that brings us together, I think.

This culture might be different – Pakistan’s culture emerges from Indus Valley Civilization; Italian from Etruscan, Greek & Roman – The civilizations are different but the end result is that we both are very similar people and this is why I think Italians and Pakistanis’ go very well together.

I think another interesting number is: in Italy we have the biggest Pakistani community of whole European Union. In Europe we are only second to the United Kingdom. So we have a very big community of Pakistanis. Now we would like to see more Italians coming to Pakistan for business. This is my hope. This is what I think I can achieve.

NPTV: Have you traveled outside of Karachi? What is your impression about Karachi and other places that you have visited?

DG: Karachi is a wonderful city. This is a city that never sleeps. People who have not lived in Karachi can’t imagine. When people think of Pakistan they will not be able to imagine Karachi. I have been here for less than a year, my wife and I got very attached to Karachi, its lifestyle. It is very different from what people might think. It is also such a big city with such a huge population.

It is a city that has grown so much and mostly due to immigration. And this has created a very particular relationship between the population and the city. So this is something that is very unique. I have traveled around Pakistan. Of course I have been to Islamabad many times. I have been to Lahore. Karachi, I think has a unique character.

NPTV: One of the priorities of the government of Pakistan is to promote tourism in the country. Does Pakistan have the potential to become a tourist hotspot for Europeans? Do you think there any potential avenues of cooperation between Italy and Pakistan in tourism sector?

DG: I think tourism has been very much under-rated in Pakistan, because Pakistan has everything. I can make a comparison with Italy: You are one of the few countries in the world, like Italy geographically, that expands from South to the North; You have very high mountains like we have Alps; And in the South you have the sea like us. So you have the mountains you have the sea, you have beautiful places.

And you have very ancient cultural sites, archaeological areas. You also have beautiful places in Sindh, in Punjab; you have a beautiful historical heritage in Lahore, in Bahawalpur, in Thatta. So you have everything, literally. I think there is still room for improvement in the tourism Industry here.

And the cooperation with Italy is another project. You see Italy is very well-known for the hospitality sector since we are one of the biggest tourists’ destinations all over the world. In city like Rome there are millions and millions of tourists coming every day.

And hospitality is not easy to manage. You need certain training, you need a certain kind of infrastructure and you need good managers. And I think Italy can offer this know-how to Pakistan. I think there are people who are interested in doing this and this is surely a venue of cooperation.

I think tourists are something that is not easy to come. But once tourists will start coming to Pakistan, they will stay there you see. They will not want to leave. They will want to come back. This is very important. You have beautiful places. So I personally think that they should be better known to the rest of the world.

NPTV: The Foreign Minister of Italy, Honorable Luigi Di Maio visited Pakistan, which was quite an encouraging news. Please enlighten us more about the visit.

DG: The last visit of an Italian Foreign Minister to Pakistan was in 2016. Then two years ago we had a visit of our under-secretary of state. The recent visit of our Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio was a very important visit.  While multi-lateral issues were discussed, the purpose of the visit was also to improve bilateral issues, such as trade and culture.

During the visit Honorable Foreign Minister met the highest Pakistani authorities including the Prime Minister, his counterpart here and the Chief of Army Staff. I have to say that we were beautifully received and I can only thank the Government (of Pakistan) for its hospitality and perfect organization of the visit.

NPTV: Your vision on the future of bilateral relations between Italy and Pakistan. The way forward!

DG: Our aim, first of all, is to improve trade which is very important. Because trade is the beginning of many things. If you improve trade you will improve relations between the people. This is our way of doing business which is similar to yours. So from there we can also have a cultural angle and something else. What I want to promote is, for instance, what we call in Italy the Social NGOs.

We can also work on Social and Humanitarian Sectors.  Once we have improved trade relations, once we have big companies coming here, then it will be easier to do the rest that will follow. Then again what Italy can offer to Pakistanis, the know how that we have in certain specific sectors. This is very important.

For the rest you have everything. If we look at natural and human resources, you are one of the richest countries it the world. There is no bout about that. So you know the question is what Italy can offer to Pakistan and what Pakistan can offer to Italy. | YouTube Channel


M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.