Pakistan-Qatar connection policy review

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Malik Khan Muhammad

THE incumbent government of Pakistan has geared-up its “economic diplomacy” and tried to “diversify” its sources of seeking inflows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Current account deficit is widening. Foreign reserves are at the lowest ebbs.
Pak-US exchange parity (24 percent) has already created a huge economic and financial disparity in the country due to which policy makers are in the line of fire.
In this regard, most recently Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif paid a two-day official visit to Qatar, during which he met high government’s officials, ministers and business communities to invest in the country.
During Pakistan-Qatar Investment and Business Roundtables 2022 he invited potential investors from Qatar to invest in Pakistan’s energy (renewables, wind & solar), oil & gas cooperation, aviation, industrial and infrastructural development, agriculture (food security), livestock, maritime (blue economy), tourism and hospitality sectors.
In this connection, the Prime Minister met the highest officials of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) one of the largest sovereign wealth funds of the world and highlighted Pakistan’s liberal and business friendly investment policies.
Since the Chinese government has already endorsed the idea of “Third Party” participation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects that is why during the meeting the Premier urged Qatari investors and businessmen to invest in the ongoing projects of the same in the country which would provide numerous befitting propositions in the days to come.
In this regard, private companies of Qatar would play an important role in the days to come.
In the past, various Qatari companies showed their keen interests in infrastructural development, agriculture, energy and tourism projects in the country but somehow, those could not be materialized. QIA Chief Executive Officer Mansoor Bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud and Chief Investment Officer of Africa and Asia-Pacific Regions Sheikh Faisal Thani Al-Thani represented the Qatar Investment Authority.
During his meeting the Prime Minister lauded Qatar’s rapid economic development (third largest economy of the GCC and the most smarter in the Middle East) under the visionary leadership of Qatar’s Emir and echoed that Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with Qatar and wanted to upgrade the traditionally warm political ties between the two countries into a comprehensive economic partnership.
He emphasized the need to further enhance bilateral economic and investment engagement, particularly in the renewable energy including solar and wind power generation, aviation, maritime, industrial and infrastructure development and hospitality sectors. He showcased Pakistan’s unique geographic and demographic comparative advantages, which combined its strategic location with a huge middle-class market and a large skilled workforce. On his part, Premier Shehbaz Sharif assured full facilitation to the QIA through transparent and expeditious processes. The Prime Minister appreciated the QIA’s rejuvenated interest in investing in Pakistan. Consequently, it was agreed that designated focal persons on both sides would closely follow-up on the key proposals for investments.
For the further strengthening of bilateral relations and gearing up of economic diplomacy the Prime Minister invited Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mehmoud and Sheikh Faisal Thani Al-Thani to visit Pakistan at their earliest convenience to build on the momentum generated by the visit.
The QIA officials expressed their keen interest and readiness in actively pursuing investment opportunities in the country.
Moreover, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif interacted with the prominent Qatari and Pakistani business leaders at a “Pakistan-Qatar Trade and Investment Roundtable 2022”, jointly organised by the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), the Pakistan Business Council Qatar and the Embassy of Pakistan in Doha. Pakistan and Qatar on Wednesday agreed to promote cooperation in different sectors. The understanding was reached during a meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha.
The two sides also discussed matters pertaining to bilateral and mutual interest during the meeting. During his stay, PM met Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, besides addressing the Pakistan-Qatar Trade and Investment Roundtable conference. To conclude, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Qatar is timely, strategic, and articulated. It fetched huge pledges of investment amounting to US$2 billion along with promises of financial assistance in terms of deferment of payments of energy bills (importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Moreover, export of human capital, especially military personnel to World Football in Qatar is a huge economic success for cash-stripped Pakistan. Since Russia-Ukraine war has destabilized the international energy and food markets the policy makers of Pakistan should further strengthen imports of LNG from Qatar.
Pakistan has two long-term LNG supply deals with Qatar to provide up to nine cargoes a month which should be further increased. Interestingly, both sides agreed to further strengthen bilateral ties in terms of advancing energy-related cooperation, deepening trade and investment and exploring greater employment opportunities for Pakistanis in Qatar. Qatar is home to more than 200,000 Pakistanis, who are contributing to the progress, prosperity and economic development of the two brotherly countries which should be further streamlined, systemized and strengthened.
The maiden visit of Premier Shehbaz to Doha should be termed as successful in all respects which definitely renewed impetus to deepening cooperation between the two countries in diverse fields and further strengthen their growing economic partnership. Hopefully, it will further enhance bilateral economic and investment engagement, particularly in the renewable energy including solar and wind power generation, aviation, maritime, industrial and infrastructure development, and hospitality sectors. Moreover, investments in the ongoing and CPEC Phase-II would be a game changer in the country.
It seems that Pakistan-Qatar relations are promising in essence. The two-day visit of PM Shehbaz as he met the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, was meant to further the envelope of a long-lasting understanding in all walks of life.
Thus both reassured their resolve to make new strides in renewable energy, industrial and infrastructure development, as well as in tourism and hospitality.
Ours is the age of globalization 3.0 where economic diplomacy plays very important role in achieving the desired goals of socio-economic development.
Pakistan and Qatar are also gearing up their bilateral relations with the help of economic diplomacy.
Qatar is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is the world’s largest liquefied natural gas producer and has become a major force in foreign investment, in addition to its achievements in political, cultural, social and legislative spheres.
Despite some external challenges Qatar has succeeded to maintain and sustain economic independence and protected its national security and strengthened bilateral relations with all countries of the world.
Cooperation in cotton would provide win-win position to Qatari investors because textile benefits are enormous and diversified.
Moreover, oil & gas exploration would provide comparative advantage to Qatar which needs to be further strengthened.
Extended cooperation in the fields of agriculture and food security would be a game-changer in the days to come.
Tourism, SMEs, chemicals and infrastructure sectors would be mutually benefited for both the countries.

The writer is Executive Director, the Centre for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad, Regional Expert, Qatar & GGC