ISLAMABAD, Oct 19: The foreign minister of Italy Franco Frattini has described Pakistan as a “crucial bilateral partner” and has said the two countries aim to work together for the stabilisation of a region “whose security is conditioned by the conflict under way in Afghanistan and the threats of terrorism and extremism”.
In an exclusive article written for Dawn on the eve of his visit to Islamabad, Mr Frattini said in order to achieve such a goal “Italy is to intensify relations with Pakistan, to strengthen the already solid bonds of friendship and cooperation that unite our two nations in various political, economic and cultural sectors”.
“At the same time, he said, “we believe that an internally stable Pakistan, with sound institutions and an economy on the rebound, is an essential asset to the stability of the region”.
The Italian foreign minister went on to state: “We believe that Pakistan is going to have to tap the potential it has, and in which we believe, in order to become a producer of regional security and stability that sets an example of moderation for the Islamic world and makes a positive contribution to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan.”
“My visit falls within this two-fold, bilateral/regional, context”, he said.
Elaborating further, Mr Frattini said: “I would like to offer some concrete indications on how Italy intends to go about confronting Pakistan’s internal needs and strengthening its regional role.”
“Obviously a stabilised country and the creation of a climate favourable to investments would increase the attraction to Italian businesses. Bilaterally we intend to move quickly to implement the conversion of an approximately 80 million-euro bilateral debt, which could be used for projects in sectors and areas ranging from healthcare to education, and that are crucial to Pakistan’s internal development.
“We are also working toward expanding the mutually advantageous collaboration between our respective businesses and promoting future collaboration in various sectors of the economy such as energy, the agri-industry, textiles and marble. There are already many well-established Italian firms in your country and we are currently already one of your main European trade partners.
“We are also engaged in developing scientific and cultural cooperation. I would mention the contribution Italy will be making with its corps of professors to the establishment of the University of Engineering, Science and Technology in Karachi. Moreover, we are expecting a substantial number of Pakistani students this year in Italy, who have been given the opportunity to specialise at our universities.
“As next president of the G8, Italy intends to devote special attention to the regional dimension of the conflict in Afghanistan, by starting now to galvanise neighbouring countries, obviously beginning with Pakistan. In particular, we foresee the organisation next year of a regional outreach project involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and other neighbouring nations interested in contributing to regional stability.
“We want to ensure that all the regional protagonists fully agree to this involvement. We intend to listen to them and examine together, starting with Pakistan, ideas and proposals that can lead to the sustainable stabilisation of Afghanistan and the region. I would stress the importance of the role of these countries in the region: the stabilisation of Afghanistan is not, nor must it be viewed, the exclusive task of the West, but a common public asset that must be shared equally amongst the members of the international community and, first and foremost, by the region’s protagonists. I am certain that Pakistan will be ready to respond to our appeal.”