“In the longer term, the investment potential in Pakistan is huge,” says Alfred Grannas, the German Ambassador to Pakistan. In an informal interview at Dawn’s head office, the ambassador outlined the country’s potential for exporting hydrogen.
“Pakistan has potential for wind and hydropower. It is one of the most promising things that can be built up to a large scale — hydrogen generated through renewable energy. This is the fuel of the new industrial age,” he says.
The fossil fuels burned for industrial use are harming the environment. As the world moves forward, industries are transitioning to a green way. “We do produce it ourselves, but not enough. We will always require imports to meet our needs.”
Given Pakistan’s background of mass mismanagement and the mounting circular debt. Can this potential be realised? The ambassador seemed to think so. “Things in Pakistan can be developed over time. I am sure this investment will be developed eventually because it is so attractive for all parties concerned.”
Pakistan can export green hydrogen generated from renewables to Germany in the long term
Some projects are already in the pipeline, for example, the Sindh Wind Corridor in Jhimpir. A relatively concrete plan is in motion to set up a huge wind park. The technology will come from Germany, for which feasibility studies are being carried out. Many industrial companies in Germany require green hydrogen and hence are very interested.
Another project in the works is the assembly plant for Volkswagen AG vehicles, which also depends on Pakistan’s economic conditions. “As you know, investment is an investment; it is not charity. So if there is scope for something, only then will it materialise,” he says when queried about international investors’ views in the current macroeconomic environment.
There are about 40 German companies in Pakistan, and they have been around for quite some time. Companies like Siemens are well established and know how to operate and navigate the local market. Siemens has production facilities in Karachi, from where it exports to other countries.
‘It was very encouraging to see a women’s campus for higher studies in a rural area — they could speak English well and were not intimidated by the presence of an ambassador’
The ambassador also talked about the potential of exporting agricultural products such as fruits and milk products. “There are things that Pakistan is already producing, and its quality is very good. It just has to meet international standards for exports.”
Germany is one of the most important export destinations for Pakistan. But why is Pakistan important for Germany?
“Pakistan is situated in a region with ‘interesting’ neighbours. We may be far away, but its stability is a cornerstone for peace in this region and therefore impacts the world,” he said, explaining the continued geo-strategic importance of the country.
It seemed tragic that Pakistan’s importance is derived chiefly from its location rather than its innate attributes or economic might. Thus, the ambassador added, “we have been here for a long time. Pakistan and Germany have had a very good partnership and diplomatic relations since 1952.”
Women empowerment in Nushki
The ambassador gave a surprising answer when asked what impressed him the most in his recent trips across the country.
“The girls in Nushkin gave me a hard time in terms of questioning,” he laughed. “It was very encouraging there to see a women’s campus in Balochistan for higher studies in a rural area, far off the beaten track. They could speak English well enough to communicate and were not intimidated by the presence of a German ambassador. It is a remarkable example of young girls being determined to make something of themselves and gripping the chance that the institution was providing.”
Mr Grannas, visiting Nushkin because parts of a district hospital were constructed with German money, was full of praises for the self-confidence and determination expressed by the girls he met there.
Generally, however, he got the impression that the Balochs feel they receive limited benefits from the activities within the province, such as mining. While there is not much a German ambassador can do to address these ails, the common people of the province aired their grievances in hopes of being heard by higher powers.
‘Idiots’ in Germany
Given the recent Quran-burning incident in Stockholm, the ambassador was questioned about the state of Islamophobia in Germany. Of the roughly five million Muslims there, the bulk are Turkish and only 200,000 are Pakistani.
“Of course, there are always idiots in any society. About 80 per cent of Germans understand that migration is beneficial for society and there has to be some integration.”
The congenial chat with the ambassador touched on many topics, from his admiration of the beauty of Ziyarat to his love for chapli kebabs which he had in Peshawar. But the conversation took a sombre turn when discussing the current economic crisis.
“It is not up to me to make a prescription as to what Pakistan should do. No country is ever saved from the outside.
“There is a path that has to be walked upon to navigate Pakistan out of the current crisis, even if it may not be enjoyable in the immediate future. While I cannot say what the people of Pakistan should do or not do, I will say that the awareness and consciousness of what is going on now have grown to such an extent that people will take the required actions.
“And it is up to the Pakistani people to choose those capable enough to carry out the necessary reforms. Reforms that cannot be taken in weeks or months but those that will bring about sustainable development.”
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, February 6th, 2023