PAKISTAN is diversifying its foreign policy by expanding relations with multiple countries to attract investment. The two areas on which Government of Pakistan is paying its full attention are: a) ensuring security by undertaking military operations against the terrorists and extremists; b) building necessary energy and transport infrastructure all over the country. The security forces of Pakistan have offered huge sacrifices in fighting terrorism. After the success of operation Zarb-e-Azb, Pakistan Armed Forces have now started another operation Radd-ul-Fasaad covering the whole country which is more broadened operation from the previous operations aimed at making Pakistan a secure and a strong country. The success of military operations along with smooth implementation of various projects of CPEC, provide an environment conducive to investment in Pakistan. The CPEC being a huge connectivity project is based on the concept of inclusive approach and win-win cooperation.
There is a huge potential of economic and investment cooperation with the Western countries especially in the context of developing industrial zones along CPEC route. One such country is Norway with which Pakistan has very cordial relations. Norway established diplomatic relations with Pakistan since its independence in 1947. Both countries enjoy cordial relations based on commonality of views on a number of important issues. It is encouraging to note that the relations between them are following an upward trend. These relations are reinforced by the presence of a large Pakistani Diaspora in Norway. At present there are 50,000 Pakistanis working in Norway-Norwegian nationals. In September 2013, three Pakistanis were elected to Norwegian Parliament, Mr. Abid Raja (Liberal Party), Ms. Hadia Tajik (Labour Party) and Mr. Mudassar Kapur (Conservative Party). Almost 10% of the medical students in Oslo are of Pakistani origin. The figure is significant as Pakistani Norwegians only constitute 3.67% of Oslo’s population. The proportion of Pakistani Norwegians, born and raised in Norway, in higher education at university level is higher than the Norwegian national average.
Norway provides development assistance to Pakistan, particularly in the areas of governance and education. On a smaller scale, Norway has contributed toward documentation and preservation of Pakistan’s cultural heritage. There is a need to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in areas including trade, investment and defence. The ten prominent Norwegian companies active in Pakistan include Telenor, Nera Networks, Tanberg Jotun Powder Coating Pakistan Pvt Ltd and Det Norske Veritas (DVN). Pakistan’s relations with Norway are based on commonality of views and shared values of democratic pluralism and economic liberalism, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on July 7, 2015 while meeting with Crown Prince of Norway Prince Haakon on the sidelines of Oslo Summit on Education for Development. Pakistan has long-standing economic and trade relations with Norway and the help and assistance extended by Norwegian government to the flood victims of Pakistan in 2010 is highly valued by the Pakistani people.
There is a vast scope of cooperation between Pakistan and Norway in governance, education, health and other sectors. The export of cotton, textile and leather from Pakistan to Norway has lot of potential for further improvement. Both countries can also look at new avenues of cooperation such as hydropower generation, exploration of oil and gas and minerals. Agriculture is another area of cooperation. Norway has been the third biggest exporter of gas in the world, fifth in oil and sixth in hydro power. Therefore Norway has great potential to help Pakistan in overcoming its energy crisis.
Norway wants to expand its investment portfolio in collaboration with the relevant institutions in Pakistan, said the Norwegian Ambassador, H.E Tore Nedrebø while meeting with Pakistan’s Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar in Islamabad on October 8, 2016. The minister assured his cooperation and support to facilitate Norwegian investments in Pakistan. The volume of total bilateral trade and imports of Pakistan from Norway are constantly dipping since 2012. The total volume of mutual trade has come down to $ 69 million in 2014 from $ 78 million in 2012. The trade figures of last three years suggest that both countries must jointly make efforts to reverse the declining trend. Direct interaction between the business communities of two countries can help in enhancing trade between the two countries.
Globally, Norway is in the forefront such as in environmental and energy technology and the maritime and marine sectors. The great Norwegian merchant fleet carries a large part of the world’s trade. Petroleum and petroleum products, machinery and equipment, metals, chemicals, ships, and fish are the main exports; imports include capital goods, chemicals, metals, and foodstuffs. Pakistan’s exports to Norway include bed linens, articles of apparel & clothing, rice, sports goods and hosiery items etc. Pakistan’s imports from Norway are limited to polymers of ethylene & vinyl chloride and some natural polymers in primary forms. Other items include electrical equipment and scrap of iron & steel etc.
There is a need to make more concerted and sector-specific efforts to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries. Norway is ready to take all steps to expand its ties with Pakistan for socio-economic development of the country. While speaking at Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry on November 24, 2016, Norwegian Ambassador H.E. Mr. Tore Nedrebo assured Norway’s cooperation with Pakistan. He said Telenor was the second largest cellular service provider in Pakistan with an investment of $3.5 billion and creation of 5000 direct jobs. Norway has been cooperating with Pakistan in two LNG terminals at Karachi and one Norwegian company was involved in a hydropower project in Swat, KP. The balance of trade was in favour of Pakistan during 2015, Pakistan’s exports to Norway were $78 million with imports from Norway $ 11 million. Pakistan is interested to further improve economic relations with Norway and would warmly welcome Norwegian investors to Pakistan. In this regard, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has opened up new opportunities for investment in Pakistan.
— The writer is Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.