By Shabbir Hussain
ISLAMABAD, Mar 12 (Diplomatic Star ): Pakistan has enjoyed a immense potential of tourism, its wonderful and mighty mountains, rivers, glaciers, cultural diversity and its hospitable people is more than enough to attract foreign travelers.
These views were expressed by the Mauritius Ambassador to Pakistan Rashidally Soobadar in an exclusive interview with Diplomatic Star here on Sunday.
In the area of tourism, the ambassador said that Mauritius and Pakistan have vast potential and since our sectors differ, there is huge scope for cooperation on a win-win basis.
Rashidally Soobadar, said ” the Pakistan destination is very varied but in-land connectivity like a dense network of railway tracks for high speed trains is a major challenge. Another challenge in Pakistan is the lack of trained personnel; an area I believe Mauritius can help Pakistan.”
Rashidally said that the successive Governments of Mauritius and the private sector over the past 50 years have been able to build a brand of tourism which caters for high spenders since with a population of 1.2 million we are visited by another 1.5 million tourists each year.
Air travel is now becoming costly and since Pakistan is geographically located in the North of the Indian Ocean whereas Mauritius is in the Southern tip of the Indian Ocean, keeping in view the high inflation rate, the ambassador said unless ” We can offer incentives for travelers, besides ensuring competitive packages and guarantee the safety of tourists, we will not be preferred destinations for tourists.”
Replying to a question about bilateral relations of Mauritius and Pakistan
The Ambassador said that Mauritius and Pakistan established diplomatic relations on 12 March 1968, and Mauritius opened a High Commission in June 1970.
He said that Pakistan falls within a select group of countries with which Mauritius entertains special relations. Indeed, the ancestors of people of Mauritius come from different continents and with these countries are known as “pays de peuplements”.
Mauritius is an insular State which is trading with the whole world. ” We depend on imports to meet of food requirements, energy requirements and consumer goods. Hence, areas of cooperation are vast and I cannot limit myself to a few areas and our respective Governments have concluded many agreements and MoUs which reflect the dense and highly rich nature of bilateral relations.”
To another question about trade of two countries
The Mauritius envoy said that Trade is very important for a Small Island Developing State like Mauritius. Trade helps us overcome the challenges arising from our insularity.
Therefore, given the excellent political relations which exist between Mauritius and Pakistan “I would say the sky is the limit.” Rashidally Soobadar said that Our respective private sectors should be creative and daring enough to avail of the web of agreements which our two Governments have concluded.” We are soon to start bilateral negotiations on a Trade and Investment Treaty since we mutually agreed to terminate the bilateral “Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement “ signed in April 1997.”
Replying to another question regarding people to people contact
Rashidally Soobadar said that connectivity by air and sea is most important to promote people-to-people contacts and trade exchanges. Currently, Emirate Airlines is linking Mauritius and Pakistan and I must add that air travel has picked up over the past few months.
Replying to another question about tourists insecurity in Pakistan
” Pakistan suffers from an image deficit as portrayed in the Western media and which does not reflect the reality on the ground in Pakistan” Rashidally Soobadar said.
Ambassador Rashidally Soobadar said that there are undeniably pockets of insecurity. However, he said Pakistan is a huge country and overall there is peace and security in Pakistan.
“The people of Pakistan is very welcoming and Pakistan has a rich historical, cultural and culinary heritage which is unique.” The envoy said that it is the policy of the Government of Mauritius to facilitate travel of all categories of persons visiting or interested to visiting Mauritius.
Ambassador Rashidally Soobadar said that the High Commission of Mauritius here would facilitate Pakistanis tourists in obtaining visas before travelling to Mauritius.
The Ambassador said I am more ambitious and wished that Pakistani tourists to be able to travel to Mauritius and obtain their visas on arrival.
Talking about the climate and sustainable society, Rashidally Soobadar remarks
All States in the Developing World which have a sizeable unemployment are caught in a complex situation of either achieving higher growth rates to be able to feed its population or face social and political instability. With a poor population, the environment would be further exploited and mismanaged.
Hence, the climate challenge for developing countries, the envoy said is a real challenge which is closely related to higher growth rates. Until the green economy is affordable to all countries, use of fossil fuel cannot be stopped.
Ambassador said that almost developing countries are adopting a mix of policies aimed at achieving growth while at the same time protect the environment.
It is a pity, the envoy said that the developed world which have been over exploiting nature are unwilling to contribute to the climate fund although they had pledged to do so.
Women role in economic uplift and sustainable society
The Developed World narrative and developing countries, specifically the countries where Islam is followed by the majority population on the issue of women empowerment is quite a false one. He said ” Women have to play a vital role in any vibrant economy and society to achieve the goal of sustainable society.”
The only difference between the West and the Islamic World is about the type of society and economy to be promoted through the empowerment of women, he said.
Climate Change and Mauritius policies
The ambassador said that Mauritius is a small Island and a developing country which is being heavily impacted by climate change. “We are facing more severe cyclones, flash floods and rainfall which is very unpredictable.”
” Mitigation measures are not available to Mauritius which is facing ocean pollution, erosion of its coast lines and a depletion of its marine resources.”
At national level Mauritius is adopting major policies to establish the right legal framework and structures to address the negative impacts of climate change. However, the ambassador said that resources both human and financial are limited.
On-land we are adopting more efficient and eco-friendly mass transportation systems and improving our infrastructures to reduce negative impacts on our fragile eco-system.
Media role and socio-economic uplift
The ambassador Rashidally Soobadar said that now a days media is a very powerful tool of modern world as it has ability to shape public opinions, press articles, photos etc are important in arising the curiosity of people.
I would say in today’s against the dynamic reality of social platforms, the role of media is more than ever relevant in promoting destinations, people-to-people contact, and cultural diplomacy since journalists are more ethical in their approach.