CARLOS MORALES – The Ambassador of Spain in Pakistan
EVOLVE: Please share with our readers a brief overview of your professional journey?
His Excellency: First of all I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to get in touch with EVOLVE readers and I hope that they will get to know a little bit more about Spain and also about the importance of relations between Spain and Pakistan. I started as a career diplomat twenty eight (28) years ago and I have been posted in Turkey, China, the Philippines, USA and Mexico. At the United Nations in New York I had the opportunity to acquire multilateral experience dealing with the Security Council on issues related to Middle East and Africa. While back at the Headquarter in Madrid, I have dealt with matters related to Afghanistan and South Asia. Pakistan is my first appointment as an Ambassador and I have been here for almost two years now.
EVOLVE: Spain and Pakistan completed their 65 years of friendship in 2016. Please share your feelings in context of this long term relationship?
His Excellency: Indeed it is a very long term relationship of 66 years now and a very cordial one. In past years our links have evolved significantly. I would say that trade has become the most important driver of this evolution. The biggest example is the increasing trade volume between our two countries. Trade exchanges between Pakistan and Spain have reached their highest level with a bilateral volume of $1.2 billion USD in 2016. At the same time, Spain has become the seventh customer of Pakistani exports globally. That’s why I believe that Spain has turned into an important partner for this country. Furthermore, since the European Union GSP plus scheme came into force in January of 2014, there has been a tremendous increase in exports from Pakistan to Spain. Since then, the increase ratio for first year (2014) was by 48%, on the 2nd year (2015) by 22% and on the 3rd year (2016) by 6.7%. I hope that our ever increasing trade will also serve to attract the interest of the business communities from both countries. In this context, a more frequent business interaction could lead to a wider increase in people to people contacts.
EVOLVE: Spain is a key player within the international donor community and actively participates in various international forums and supports UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. How do you evaluate the effectiveness of aid donated for food security and nutrition, access to water, sanitation and hygiene?
His Excellency: I have experienced this kind of cooperation in many countries but I am not myself a cooperation or development expert. Still I believe that providing development represents a very significant aspect of foreign policy. I have witnessed Spanish development policies in countries such as Mexico and the Philippines. In Pakistan, there is a large donor community. I would like to acknowledge the hard work implemented in this area by UN programs and agencies as well as major donor partners, including the European Union. I keep a very close contact with them. I believe that through their work, they convey and share their experiences and practices with the country where they are operating which is extremely positive in order to achieve ownership and sustainability. Although mistakes may have been made in the past in terms of development polices, yet comparatively today there is huge improvement in mechanisms compared to 15 or 20 years ago.
EVOLVE: European nations and especially Spain are very much concerned about the access of women to education and their participation in professional careers. How are you supporting Pakistani women in this regard?
His Excellency: I always like to say that no nation can achieve real development and progress without incorporating half of its population to working life. I can share my country´s own experience. Spain, in South Western Europe, was until the 1950s, a very traditional society. Things started to change gradually in the late 50s and throughout the 60s when women started to get into the labor force. Since then I think the role of women started to be acknowledged as key to the progress of our society.I do not believe in miracles. I do believe in bringing all sectors of the society together. No country can afford to live without or do away with 51 or 52% of its total population. I remind you that men are the minority and women are the majority, and that’s the way it works. Coming to Pakistan, there are some positive developments in this regard. More and more women work in public institutions. I am not just talking about being the prime minister, I am talking about ministers of state or members of Parliament, and from that level down. Women should also be more visible. Everything that serves to promote women’s role and visibility in public life should also lead to provide equal opportunities. At the end of the day, it all comes down to a question of opportunities. Providing opportunities to women so they can choose whether they want to attend college or not. I know that there are many women in this country who are already attending colleges and universities but after that they get married and decide to stay home.Well, I hope that trend will change in the future but at least they have the opportunity and they hopefully make their own personal choice. In a related matter, I would like to add that every year the Embassy of Spain provides support to some local NGOs working on rural women. For what we discuss with these local agencies and organizations, women´s economic empowerment is a key issue. The fact is that agriculture is still a major employer of women in this country. According to the law, women in rural areas enjoy equal rights to men in terms of issues such as land ownership or inheritance. However, the problem arises with the implementation and enforcement of those laws and this is where I’m afraid there is still a long way to go. It is one of the most pressing issues in this country, economic empowerment for both rural and urban women but especially for rural women who tend to find themselves in general terms in a more difficult plight than women living in urban centers.
The fact is that agriculture is still a major employer of women in this country. According to the law, women in rural areas enjoy equal rights to men in terms of issues such as land ownership or inheritance
EVOLVE: Pakistan’s tourism sector has great potential while Spain is the second country in the world in terms of tourism revenue and third in number of the visitors. How Spanish practices can be shared and implemented in Pakistan?
His Excellency: His Excellency: That is a very interesting topic. Last year 75 million tourists visited Spain and these tourists left about $ 80 million USD which is a tremendous amount of wealth. Spain might not be rich in natural resources like oil but instead receives many tourists every year. Spain has always been a destination for tourist. Since the 18th century, the country hosted visitors coming from the rest of Europe. Tourism boom started in the 1950s and since then the offer has been much diversified. The country caters for all types of visitors, including different cultures, life styles and nationalities. In any case, I think it’s an industry which takes time to develop and consolidate and which is always in constant transformation.I think the first thing that attracts tourists is a secure environment. And I’m talking first and foremost of local tourists. Whenever I visit a country and I see the locals moving around the country and going to places, I say to myself that “this country is safe”. If I go to Lahore and I see many Pakistani tourists, families with children visiting the monuments; I would say “this is a safe country”. So I think the first step is to encourage your own domestic tourism. You will have to start with that. People from different cities in Pakistan should be
able to travel safely to other cities in their own country. Second most important aspect is infrastructure, hotels, airlines, communication, highways,
service areas, petrol stations. You have build a good service infrastructure. Finally you will have to design a clear strategy on what type of tourists you would like to visit your country. What type of tourism industry? I think it is also important to have a clear understanding of your neighbors. Most tourists who come to Spain are from our neighboring countries. You have the two most populated countries in the world next to your doorstep. So your potential is huge. But of course you have to get along with your neighbors. Every year 17 million British tourists come to Spain. And then I think you should make your country more visible. There are many countries in this part of the world which are doing very well in tourism like Sri Lanka, India or Nepal. Pakistan needs a clear strategy and a broad vision on how you want to portray your country abroad. In the 1950s Spain was an isolated country coming out of a civil war under a dictatorial regime. Tourism contributed a lot to open up the country and its people to the rest of the world.
EVOLVE: Your message to readers of EVOLVE magazine.
His Excellency: I hope that this conversation will help to strengthen the links between our two countries and contribute to raise the interest of your readers towards Spain. There are many Pakistanis who have already visited Spain. They usually like to go to the Southern part of the country to visit Islamic influenced monuments in Granada and Cordoba. Then we have Allama Iqbal, who went to Cordoba in 1933 and wrote one of the major poems in Urdu, “Masjid-e-Qurtaba”. So there is a deep spiritual connection. There are many Pakistanis who have made Spain their home and live there happily. Pakistan is well known for many good reasons. One of those good reasons is for its mountains. Spain is a country of mountains and we have many climbers and mountaineers. I hope more and more climbers from my country will come back in the future to visit the astonishing landscapes of the northern areas of Pakistan.