Pakistan-Netherland relations are set to strengthen further

Economic relations date back to the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company established a small trading post in Thatta, Sindh. In March 1652, Pieter de Bie sailed with his ship to Sindh and set up a trading post (factorij) in competition with the Portuguese and British. This trading post however lasted only eight years, as it was not a commercial success. Several trading missions followed, among which a well-documented one in 1757, led by merchants Wolphert Abraham Brahe and Nicolaas Mahue. After this a long period of decline in economic relations set in. Just before World War II, Royal Dutch Airlines KLM started to operate a hotel in Karachi, called Midway hotel, as this city was halfway between Amsterdam and Jakarta/Indonesia (the former Dutch colony). The hotel still exists as the Ramada Plaza Karachi Airport Hotel. In 1948, Philips set up operations in Karachi, which subsequently developed into a manufacturing unit. Around the same time, Unilever opened a company representative branch in Pakistan (Unilever Pakistan) followed by Royal Shell Pakistan. In 1982, Pakistan and the Netherlands signed a bilateral Double Taxation Agreement, to promote business activities in both countries. Pakistan is the 6th largest non-European economic partner and the 13th largest economic partner trading partner of the Netherlands in the world.

Pakistan and the Netherlands established bilateral relations soon after its independence of Pakistan. The Dutch Embassy opened in Karachi in 1955 and shifted to Islamabad ten years later. Pakistan soon became a partner country for the Netherlands, receiving substantial Development Cooperation funds from the 1960s onwards, in particular in the areas of water management/environment, education, and governance. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to terminate the structural development projects and shift the focus to trade relations. Since 2004, the Netherlands has hosted more than 100 junior diplomats of Pakistan who were educated and obtained degrees from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael.

There exists a strong Pakistani diaspora in the Netherlands, the majority is youth, as a strong, efficient, and skilled workforce, contributing to the economic development of the Netherlands. A huge number of Pakistani youth are seeking higher education in various advanced areas of Science and Technologies. A small community is in the business and strengthening bilateral trade. Generally, Pakistanis are well respected and known for their capabilities, loyalty, and hard work. Companies give preference to Pakistanis in offering jobs, because of their hard work, efficiency, and loyalty. On the other hand, the Pakistani diaspora is earning high, serving their families and country with foreign exchange remittances.

The 10th Round of Pakistan-The Netherlands Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) was held in Hague today. Foreign Secretary Dr. Asad Majeed Khan and Mr. Paul Huijts, Secretary General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, led the respective sides. The Foreign Secretary was assisted by the Ambassador of Pakistan to the Netherlands, Suljuk Mustansar Tarar, and senior officials.

The two sides discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the Netherlands as well as regional and multilateral issues of common interest. They expressed satisfaction over the momentum in bilateral cooperation and resolved to further enhance engagement in a range of areas including political, economic, trade and investment, climate change, agriculture, water management, dairy & livestock, education, and culture. Considering the Dutch expertise, the two sides agreed to further deepen cooperation and capacity building in agriculture, especially in increasing crop output, seed development, and capacity building of small landholder farmers.

The Foreign Secretary underscored the importance Pakistan attaches to the GSP Plus scheme and thanked the Dutch side for its continued support in this regard. He highlighted the Dutch role as a major trade partner of Pakistan in the European Union and invited Dutch companies to take advantage of Pakistan’s liberal investment regime.

The two sides discussed the challenges posed by climate change. The Foreign Secretary briefed the Secretary of General about the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan held in Geneva last month and the international community’s generous support to Pakistan. He appreciated the Dutch government’s assistance in flood relief and post-flood risk assessment.

The Secretary-General appreciated Pakistan’s assistance in its evacuation operations from Afghanistan. The Foreign Secretary reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful, stable, prosperous, and connected Afghanistan. He also stressed that terrorism was a threat to regional peace and stability and emphasized the importance of collective efforts to combat this menace.

The Foreign Secretary briefed the Secretary-General on the situation in South Asia and the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), including grave human rights violations and illegal attempts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory. He said that the international community should play its role in resolving Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Both countries enjoy comprehensive harmony and wide-spectrum cooperation. In diplomatic and political areas, both support each other and look after each other’s interests on international platforms. There exists a huge potential to enhance the current bilateral relations, and also a strong will exists on both sides to further enhancement.

This year Pakistan and the Netherlands are celebrating 75 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations for which a joint logo was launched on the occasion. The two sides will celebrate the occasion by holding events in Islamabad and Hague.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.