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Pakistan-Finland Ties: A Journey of Friendship

December 15, 2021 at 7:39 am | Economic Affairs

By Zahoor Ahmed

December 6 is the national day of the Republic of Finland. On this day, Finns everywhere fly their blue and white flag and bake delicious cakes with blue and white icing. Traditionally, Finnish families light two candles in each window of their homes to signify offering hospitality to wanderers.

While Finland has a harsh climate and small population of 5.5 million, the country is one of the most advanced nations in the world primarily on account of its achievements in the fields of education and innovation. Today, it has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy with one of the highest per capita output and standard of living in the EU. Finland also ranked at the top of the UN’s annual World Happiness Report 2020. It is also world leader in democracy and gender equality. The country became the first European nation in 1906 to give women right to vote and run the Parliament.

The relations between Pakistan and Finland, which were established in January 1951, have always been characterized by mutual respect, understanding and collaboration. This year, the two countries are also celebrating seven decades of their diplomatic ties.

Finland is blessed with clean air, abundant forests, spellbinding Northern Lights and richest water resources including over 185,000 lakes. The country is one of the least exposed to natural disasters because of its 73% forests and environment friendly quality.

The relations between Pakistan and Finland, which were established in January 1951, have always been characterized by mutual respect, understanding and collaboration. This year, the two countries are also celebrating seven decades of their diplomatic ties. To commemorate this landmark, the two Foreign Ministers exchanged letters of felicitation which capture the strength and breadth of Pakistan-Finland relations. 

In his letter of felicitation to his Finnish counterpart, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the marking of 70 years was an important milestone in the political and diplomatic history of the longstanding and friendly relations. He termed Finland an important development partner of Pakistan and expressed confidence that the collaboration would grow stronger.

Finland is blessed with clean air, abundant forests, spellbinding Northern Lights and richest water resources including over 185,000 lakes. The country is one of the least exposed to natural disasters because of its 73% forests and environment friendly quality.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto in his letter to Foreign Minister of Pakistan said the two sides in recent years witnessed a growing interest towards cooperation in education, Information Technology, digital solutions and sustainable management of natural resources. He mentioned that a number of leading Finnish experts were active in Pakistan particularly in areas of energy and IT sectors. He also said Pakistani textiles, food products and sports goods were well-known and appreciated in Finland.

Both countries are also regularly holding bilateral political consultations which allow them to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and identify opportunities and possibilities for further cooperation in political, economic, trade, investment, education and cultural fields.

There have also been a number of significant high-level contacts between the leadership of the two countries recently. In September 2021, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi met his Finnish counterpart in New York on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. The two Foreign Ministers discussed bilateral relations as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest. Earlier in November 2020, the two Foreign Ministers also had a telephonic conversation in which the two sides appreciated the positive developments in bilateral relations and exchanged views on a broad range of subjects including Covid-19 pandemic, Afghan peace process, situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K), and cooperation at multilateral fora. Pakistan also participated in the Conference on Afghanistan hosted by Finland in 2020. Finland appreciates Pakistan’s key role in evacuating people who were on Finland’s list from Afghanistan.

Both countries are also regularly holding bilateral political consultations which allow them to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and identify opportunities and possibilities for further cooperation in political, economic, trade, investment, education and cultural fields. Pakistan-Finland Parliamentary Friendship Groups have been established in both houses of the Pakistani Parliament and Pakistan-Finland Business Council is operating for many years. Finland has been one of the major historic troop contributors to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). 

People-to-people contacts between the two countries are gradually expanding as well. Since 2015, Pakistan has included Finland in the list of countries with which it permits dual nationality.

People-to-people contacts between the two countries are gradually expanding as well. Since 2015, Pakistan has included Finland in the list of countries with which it permits dual nationality. The Pakistani community in Finland, estimated at around 5000 persons includes a number of outstanding Pakistanis, particularly in the field of ICT, working in Finnish companies and enterprises and each year hundreds of brilliant Pakistani young men and women study at Finnish universities.

Education is key area for collaboration. The National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTCC), Pakistan and Turku Vocational Institute (TAI), Finland signed an MoU in January 2021, which covers training of trainers and job specific trainings, mutual accreditation of technical and vocational training institutes, establishment of joint institutions and exchange of trainers, mutual cooperation in development and implementation of virtual training modules, and blended learning. As a follow up on the MoU on 26 May 2021, the Pak Finnish Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts was established in Lahore.

The two countries have also started cooperation for training of teachers in the world renowned Finnish pedagogical methods for which an MoU was signed on 1 July 2021 between Finnish Global Education Solutions (FGES) and Iqra University School System (IUS).

Finland-Pakistan Business Council (FPBC) was established on 31 October 1985 and is one of the oldest Business Councils operating in Pakistan. It has held several Finland-Pakistan Business Summits. Pakistani and Finnish companies have been collaborating in sustainability energy, ICT & telecom, construction, textiles, dairy products, agriculture, paper industry, fertilizers, banking.

Major Finnish companies including Nokia, SSM, Wärtsilä, Stora-Enso and Vaisala are operating in Pakistan. A Finnish company Stora Enso has established a joint venture called Bulleh Shah Packaging Limited with Packages Pakistan. The current bilateral trade volume of USD 90 Million is gradually increasing this year despite Covid. While Pakistani exports to Finland in 2020-2021 grew by 14 % amounting to USD 31.9 Million as compared to 2019-2020 and remittances were up by 29.8% in 2020-2021 as compared to previous year, there is much unexplored potential for further deepening and broadening our economic relations. 

Major Finnish companies including Nokia, SSM, Wärtsilä, Stora-Enso and Vaisala are operating in Pakistan. A Finnish company Stora Enso has established a joint venture called Bulleh Shah Packaging Limited with Packages Pakistan. The current bilateral trade volume of USD 90 million is gradually increasing.

It is my honour to be concurrently accredited to Finland while based in Stockholm. We have an Honorary Consul General, Mr. Wille Erola, based in Helsinki. I paid a visit to Finland from 27-29 September 2021 for the first time after the easing of Covid travel restrictions and called on the Foreign Minister Mr. Peeka Olavi Haavisto, Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Mr. Ville Skinnari, Permanent State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Matti Anttonen and other senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior.

During my visit to Aalto University, a major centre of learning in Helsinki, I discussed how to further enhance our collaboration in higher education with Vice President Mr. Hannu Seristö. I also visited Heureka Science Center, a leading Science Museum, which has collaboration with the Science Centre recently inaugurated by the President of Pakistan. I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of dynamic Pakistani entrepreneurs, researchers and high professionals based in Helsinki, who are contributing to the Finnish economy but at the same time enthusiastic to play their role in the development of Pakistan. As we celebrate 70 years of our friendship, the future of Pakistan’s relations with Finland is bright. We share aspirations for developing these relations based upon innovation, technology and quest for education.

The writer is Ambassador of Pakistan to Sweden and Finland.

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