Swiss National Day celebrated, Thomas Kolly keen on improving ties with Pakistan

Islamabad : The embassy of Switzerland celebrated its national day and over 50 years of Swiss international cooperation in Pakistan at a reception attended by a large number of diplomats, politicians, senior government and civil officers, artists and media persons.

Ambassador of Switzerland to Pakistan Thomas Kolly in his brief remarks said his country remains committed to its friendship and cooperation with Pakistan. “We look forward to continue our collaboration through different instruments, and along exciting new pathways,” the ambassador said here at a local hotel.

Ambassador Manuel Bessier, head of Humanitarian Aid and Deputy Director General SDC said Pakistan and Switzerland have a special relationship and a long history of diplomatic relations. He said he looked forward to a new era of cooperation between Switzerland and Pakistan and said there was a huge potential for cooperation in various fields.

He also recalled his time in Pakistan when he served as the head of UN OCHA in Pakistan and said there were lot of similarities between the two countries including their beautiful mountains.

Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bukhtiar, the chief guest, said Switzerland had stood by Pakistan since the inception of their relations and appreciated its part in improving governance, livelihood, education and arts and culture in the country. He particularly mentioned the humanitarian aid in the wake of natural calamities.

He also spoke about the role of numerous top Swiss companies whose products were today essential part of every household. He expressed the hope that the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) would reconsider its decision to phase out from Pakistan and urged for a “prolonged further engagement.” He specifically mentioned its role in helping Pakistan deal with the 2.8 million Afghan refugees and efforts for providing better sanitation and clean drinking water.

Switzerland was set to phase out its bilateral cooperation with Pakistan this year after reviewing the country’s progress and developments in diverse fields and the Swiss government has instead decided to focus on the least-developed countries and fragile regions and Pakistan was no more in this list.

However Switzerland would continue cooperation through the global programmes and through the multilateral partners.

Switzerland established diplomatic relations with Pakistan in 1949, which have been cordial and constructive over the past 70 years.

According to diplomatic circles, the phasing out of Swiss bilateral cooperation has more in store for Pakistan as the two countries can eye for strengthening their ties in bilateral trade. As per data from Switzerland Global Enterprise, the bilateral trade volume was around USD 565 million with an average growth of 10 percent in the bilateral trade during last five years.

Switzerland has been one of the top 5 foreign direct investors in Pakistan and in the last decade, the Swiss investment in Pakistan exceeded USD 1.5 billion.

Presently, 21 Swiss companies are operating in Pakistan in all major sectors, complimenting the vision of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government to attract foreign investment.

The break-up of trade from Switzerland to Pakistan in 2018 is as pharmaceuticals 50%, machinery 16%, chemicals 7% and watches 5.7%.

Trade from Pakistan to Switzerland 2018 includes textiles as 72.8 % and agro products 8.3 %.

In education sector, Switzerland has been offering since 2012 its Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to Pakistani students, which have been availed by over 30 youth.

In 1977, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) designated Pakistan a priority country for Swiss international cooperation and opened a Cooperation Office in Islamabad.

From 1963 to 2017, the Swiss assistance to Pakistan amounts to almost 680 million Swiss Francs (roughly equivalent to USD 680 million) in areas of vocational training, natural resource management, community-based infrastructure and small enterprise development.

After the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 floods, Switzerland assisted Pakistan with emergency relief, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction and later also focused on Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and border region to Afghanistan in improving governance, reducing poverty and rehabilitation/reconstruction activities.