The Ambassador of Tunisia and Dean of African Group Adel Elarbi talked to CENTRELINE and DNA news agency on a variety of issues. He also talked about his priorities as Dean of African Group. Ambassador Adel is leaving Pakistan in July after completing his term. He particularly mentioned his efforts that he made to promote bilateral relations during his tenure. Here are excerpts from his interview.
By ANSAR MAHMOOD BHATTI
Q1: Since you are leaving Pakistan after completing a successful term in Pakistan. Please share with us the efforts that you undertook to promote bilateral relations?
From the first day of my arrival to Pakistan I was very impressed by the diversity of your culture, sense of hospitality and kindness of the people. These values and qualities made contacts and communication easier and, for sure, helped me to seek more bridges of cooperation and partnership. This was my perception every time I meet imminent people either from the official side or when I exchange views with Pakistani businessman about trade opportunities in a very easy way. Now that I’m finishing my mission here in Pakistan, I can say that one of the secrets of the charm of Pakistan is its people and their natural human qualities. Furthermore, Pakistani businessmen are very serious and full of good will to give a shining image for their country. I usually said that to Tunisian authorities and I’m thankful to everybody who helped me, during my tenure, by providing opportunities to promote bilateral relations between Tunisia and Pakistan.
With regard to Tunisian and Pakistani bilateral cooperation, I must say that our two countries enjoy a long tradition of cooperation and brotherhood, both countries tied up strong brotherly relations since the establishment of their diplomatic relations more than half century ago. These relations that we can proudly qualify as excellent are based on mutual respect, understanding, Solidarity and good political will.
During my stay in Pakistan I tried all my best to deepen these relations by taking tangible infinitives in the aim of making Tunisia more visible in Pakistan and Pakistan more visible in Tunisia in different areas. In my work I tried to focus on economic and culture diplomacy. I visited almost all the chambers of commerce of Pakistan. I established a Tunisian corner in Pakistani Book foundation in the name of the Tunisian historian “Allama Ibn khaldoun” to give opportunities to Pakistani students and researchers to know more about Tunisian culture.
Furthermore, my mandate was marked by the successful 9th session of the Joint Ministerial Commission between Tunisia and Pakistan which was held in Tunisia in February 2018. This significant event was a corner stone in the bilateral cooperation between the two brotherly countries with regard to the important consultations held, the agreements signed in different fields and the comprehensive review of the development of our bilateral relations. An important delegation of officials and businessmen headed by the Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Tunisia and met with their counterparts there. Currently, we are at the last step of a preferential trade agreement ( PTA) which will allow both countries to exchange lists of tradable goods with a preferential trade tariffs, this agreement is expected to be finalized soon inchallah.
Q2: How do you view African-Pakistan relations?
With regard to African Pakistani relations, I can say in my quality of Dean of African group, that they are rooted in strong historical bases. These relations are tied on mutual respect, solidarity and good political will. In many areas Pakistan and Africa face the same challenges, which mean that we need more cooperation and interaction. Historically, Pakistan played a crucial role in the independence process of many African countries. Moreover, Pakistan sent its doctors and experts to help building institutions and infrastructures in the newly independent African States. Furthermore, the Pakistani army was present in UN peace keeping forces in Africa. These historical achievements of Pakistan in Africa could be more exploited and converted to real partnerships and cooperation between Pakistan and the continent.
Therefore, African States have sought for closer economic, social and cultural cooperation with Pakistan for the common good. Africa is the continent of future and Pakistani businessmen are invited to invest in Africa. The Pakistani authorities are doing their best through “Look Africa” policy, but as we know governments are just facilitators and the private sector should play its role and take more initiatives and tangible steps to boost trade relations between their country and Africa.
Q3: Please share with us details of African day that you celebrated recently.
Colorful African Day festival organized by the African countries represented in Pakistan the 14th of june 2019, provided a real feast to people of Islamabad. As you saw, visitors enjoyed traditional African delicacies. Cultural performances by African and Pakistani artists added color to African day festivities. A large number of guests hailing from various walks of life attended the event. Federal Minister for National Food Security Sahibzada Mahboob Sultan was the Chief Guest.
All African countries represented in Pakistan established their stalls. Embassy of Palestine also set up stall where various Palestinian delicacies were displayed as a gesture of solidarity with people of Palestine. The Federal Minister visited each and every stall where he was briefed about different items displayed and about culture of different African countries. The Minister took keen interest in the festival.
The Minister on the occasion assured that Pakistan would continue to have cordial relations with the African countries as the African continent offered a lot of opportunities to Pakistani businessmen.
This year, we celebrated the 56th Anniversary of the Africa day and we wanted it as a festival to show the unity, the colors and the diversity of the African continent. All the participants expressed their happiness and pride. As you are aware, Africa Day is annually celebrated every 25th of May across the globe to commemorate the birth of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which is now the African Union (AU). The creation of the organization expressed, then, the awareness of our founding fathers of the strength and the importance of a united Africa after the struggles for freedom and dignity”.
Q4: What was the theme of African Day this year? Please also share some more details about the Day?
This year, Africa Day was celebrated under the theme: “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”. This theme demonstrates the seriousness of the challenges that the continent is facing and the urgent need to work together to ensure to all African citizens the inalienable right to live free, dignified in a prosper and peaceful environment. Every year we witness human tragedies since hundreds of young African people die in the Mediterranean Sea when trying to cross to the European borders. African countries can avoid such tragedies by investing in the human being as mean and as an objective, by harmonizing their policies and approaches and focusing on the AU Agenda 2063, by assuring to every African citizen a peaceful live, free access to quality universal education, physical and mental health, decent and remunerative job, social and cultural development and good governance.
The goal of the AU as it is mentioned in its charter is to consolidate the Unity and Solidarity of the African States, Safeguard the Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of member States, advance worldwide collaboration within the United Nation (UN) framework and harmonize policies of member states in all areas.
In this context, we express our pride and pleasure that two African countries, Niger and Tunisia, were among countries elected as non-permanent members to the Security Council for a period of two years. Niger and Tunisia will be the voice of Africa during their mandate in this prestigious body of the United Nations.
Furthermore, since the Kigali Extraordinary Summit of 21 March 2018 on the Continental Free Trade Area, African countries are coordinating to come up with prospects that hold for the future. Our expectation is that Africa as a bloc will become a major and an indispensable partner in world trade.
Q5: What are your priorities as Dean of African group?
With regard to my priorities as a Dean of African group, I already discussed this subject with my colleagues African Ambassadors and high commissioners and we drafted a program for the year. But now since I’m leaving Pakistan soon, I think that the new Dean of the group will implement this program or perhaps he will have another approach after discussion with our African colleagues. In general, my priorities were working hard in collaboration with my colleagues to show our unity and our diversity to Pakistani authorities and people. Furthermore, the importance of the African continent, its connectivity as an investment attraction for Pakistani businessmen or as a huge market for Pakistani goods will be highlighted.
Moreover, we decided to give the culture aspect its importance to show to our Pakistani friends the richness of our culture and how much we can be closer to the Pakistani culture.