By Shabbir Hussain
ISLAMABAD, Jan 30 (Diplomatic Star): Finland Ambassador to Pakistan Hannu Ripatti termed Pakistan an amazing country in terms of its weather, landscape, biodiversity and a rich cultural heritage and its hospitable people.
The ambassador has expressed these views in an exclusive interview with Diplomatic Star and said Pakistan, a country of hospitable and welcoming people, is a “very safe place” for foreign tourists and travelers to visit.
“I have been lucky enough to visit some stunning parts of the federal capital which is surrounded by the beautiful Margalla Hills. I hope, I will have many more opportunities to see more of the beauty that this country is blessed with and to interact with as many different people from the cultural diversity of this country,” he said.
The Flora and Fauna of the Margalla Hills National Park and its federal capital has inspired me a lot, I believe, he said “The city is amongst the most fascinating cities in the World.”
It was an amazing experience to listen multitude of different birds and their wonderful sounds were inspirational “for me to know about them,” he added.
For me, the ambassador said its so refreshing to witness the most fascinating and “eye pleasing” views of flowering trees like Bauhinia variegata, Ficus carica, and trees like Pinus roxburghii, Quercus and leucotrichophora.
Replying to a question posed by the journalist about Finland and Pakistan Diplomatic Relations,
The ambassador Hannu Ripatti said that Finland closed the embassy about 10 years ago and the reason for closing was for finances basically after the so-called dot com crisis. At the same time security cost was also a reason not just Islamabad but in other countries as well.
The ambassador said we closed 10 missions and Islamabad was among them. Our then foreign minister had said that these are bad decisions but you have to do it when running short of money.
Replying to another question about recently opened Finland Embassy in Doha
The ambassador said that the Finland government has decided to reopen its missions in Manila, Islamabad and Doha, adding Doha mission made operational before Islamabad because of the football world cup. So, ” We wanted to have a resident consul there before the start of the mega event.”
Responding to another question about current location of the embassy and its daily routine affairs
At this moment, the ambassador said “We are at the temporary location at the Serena Business Complex but the idea is that in about a years’ time we will have the old premises and start routine operations including the issuing of visas.”
For issuing visas, He said “We have to put in place certain mechanisms including establishment of a secure telecommunication system. Then, arrangements will have to be made to conduct interviews of the visa seekers.”
So I think, He said ” We shall be able to put our house in order by October 2023. For the moment the Dutch embassy in Islamabad is taking care of our visas for 90 days.”
Currently, the envoy said that there are a large number of Pakistani students who were pursuing their studies in Finland.
“However the big problems are for the students because they need longer term visas for which applications have to be forwarded to Abu Dhabi which takes time. That is why we want to bring our visa system here in Pakistan in order to not only cater to the needs of the students but the permanent residency seekers as well.”
“I am pleased to share that Pakistani students are keen to pursue their studies especially in the field of IT and Forestry. According to the Pakistani Council General in Finland there are about 1,000 Pakistani students studying in Finland.”
Pakistan does not have an embassy in Finland and the mission in Sweden takes care of Finland as well. Things would become much easier if Pakistan opens an embassy in Finland, he remarked.
In another response to the question about the potential of Pakistan-Finland trade and their economic relations
Hannu Ripatti said that As We know the trade is done by the companies and the companies need to have a good product so that people could buy those products. Then ostensibly they need to have good connections as well.
He said ” We can help them get in touch with relevant people, but the most important thing is to get the right contact to make the trade. We have several ways of helping them. We have Fin Partnership which can facilitate and help imports and exports on both ways.”
The Business Council has promised to host a business summit here in Pakistan, he said that this has been dormant during the time of the CORONA Virus pandemic and there were no big meetings during that time.
He said “We rely very much on the people who know more about the trade such as the Fin Partnership and the business council. We are trying to make sure that this kind of thing does take place periodically.”
In coming days, he said “I plan to visit various chambers of commerce and industries. I have already visited Lahore. Once our place is ready then of course we will be able to do such activities in a planned and much better manner.”
Responding to another question regarding the cultural diversity and Finland role to promote its cultural relations with other countries, including Pakistan
” We have plan to promote cultural linkages as well.” The ambassador said that in the past the Finnish embassy used to host cultural events on regular basis and it is my plan as well to revive that tradition.
The Finland Ambassador said that another area where we can have enhanced cooperation happens to be the Hospitality Industry.
In Kuopio, The Ambassador said ” We do have institutions that have been imparting training and higher education in hotel management etc. If the Pakistani students have a diploma in this field they can pursue further studies in Finland. Student visa allows students to work in Finland but at a limited scale.”
There is a possibility that the Pakistani students seeking studies in the hospitality industry can go to Finland for this purpose.
Hannu Ripatti said that studying in Finland is not an expensive thing as compared with the US or other countries.
“We do not have a scholarship program for students but there are some specific foundations that offer scholarships. The students can log on to specific websites and get further information about these foundations and facilities they offer.”
To another question, ambassador said as I earlier said, ” Education in the Finnish institutions is not very expensive.’
“There are certain facilities such as subsidized food, sporting facilities etc available at extremely nominal charges. This system is still in vogue in most of the institutions.”
To a question about Pakistan-Finland Business Council
The ambassador said that One way of promoting trade and economic activity between the two countries is holding business summits. ” We are already onto it and hopefully shall be able to do it sooner rather than later.”
The ambassador said ” We need to expand the ambit and base of the business council with a view to enlarging its scope and utility.”
While talking about the Finland’s popular mobile phone brand Nokia,the Ambassador said that ” Nokia is doing quite well.”
He said that Nokia as you know is basically a handset maker and not a software company. With the advent of lifestyle smart phones it was perhaps difficult for the company to match challenges posed by other operators such as iPhone, Apple etc.
Nokia’s decline in the mobile device industry, culminated in the sale of the handset division to Microsoft. But that was only one of the divisions of Nokia.
Nokia primarily makes networks. Nokia and Siemens used to work together but then Nokia bought Siemens and quite recently they have bought Alcatel as well.
Replying to another question about the Pakistan-Finland cooperation in tourism and its potential between two countries.
Finland Ambassador said that Tourism is yet another area where both countries can cooperate. He said ” I visited Lahore some time ago and was amazed to see the grandeur of the city. The Walled City was a marvel to see.”
He said that Badshahi mosque is yet another attraction in Lahore that immediately attracts the visitors.
Similarly, he said that in Taxila too there are quite a few places that attract the visitors.
Of course, The ambassador said ” We have a number of tourist attractions in Finland.”
Finland as you know is well known for its Archipelagos. People who wish to explore natural beauty must visit Finland.