For nearly 140 years, July 14 has been celebrated as the French National Day. The day symbolises the unity of the nation. On this occasion, the republic pays homage to its armed forces on the prestigious Champs-Elysees and, in each town, the popular jubilation gives rise to various demonstrations including fireworks and balls.
I am happy to share this evocation with the readers of The News and to convey to them my impressions and observations after having spent 10 months in Pakistan. This country has an important place in the world in terms of its history and culture, its young and numerous population, its strategic location and its immense potential. But it is especially endearing because of the quality of the warm reception which one reserves for the visitors. On this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude to the government and the people of Pakistan for their hospitality.
Our bilateral relationship is long-lasting and stands out for the quality and diversity of our exchanges. Our political dialogue is illustrated by the very recent consultations between our two foreign secretaries. We have the same interest in security and regional stability, have both paid a high toll in fighting terrorism, believe in and support multilateralism.
However, we can aim to do better. Let’s be ambitious. Pakistan benefits from important assets, natural resources and dynamic youth, men and women, on whom the conditions of its sustainable development for the benefit of the greatest number are based. France wants to strengthen its presence by providing support and expertise in the most promising sectors and by encouraging its companies to be active in the Pakistani market.
The French Development Agency (AFD) supports important projects in a global sustainable city approach to improve the quality of life of the growing urban populations. With a portfolio of 700 million euros, we contribute to a green and sustainable development of Pakistan, examples of which range from hydroelectricity to water management, urban transport and the maintenance of cultural heritage.
More than 30 French companies are present in Pakistan and contribute to an increasing two-way trade, up to nearly 1.5 billion euros last year. However, these results are below what our two countries can aim for. The past months have been devoted to raising awareness among French companies about the Pakistani market. This is very promising in terms of volume and sector diversity, with visits by finance and commerce ministers to France, a meeting with representatives of French companies in Dubai and the mobilisation of French entrepreneurs. This momentum which should carry on to the next year.
I welcome the framework agreement contract signed by the Renault group, which should soon launch an assembly plant unit in Pakistan, a forerunner, I hope, of growing interest from our largest groups and small and medium-sized companies.
Development relies mainly on the quality of human resources. Hundreds of students have already been trained in France in academic disciplines as diverse as archaeology and engineering sciences.
Our shared will with the HEC, which recently held high-level meetings in France, is to significantly increase these flows, initiate cooperation in the field of social and environmental sciences and explore opportunities for cooperation in areas of technical and vocational training and quality assurance. This will benefit students and researchers of both genders.
The Alliances Francaises of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi contribute to the promotion of the French language, cultural dissemination and debate of ideas in this country, where art, culture and debate are supported by an impressively dynamic civil society.
On this important day, allow me to present to the people of Pakistan and its leaders my best wishes for success, peace and prosperity, and especially to celebrate with warmth and emotion the Franco-Pakistani friendship.
The writer is Ambassador of France to Pakistan