OLE THONKE Ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan
EVOLVE: Please share with us your experience before coming to Pakistan and how would you describe the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Denmark?
Mr. Ole Thonke: I feel like being on a tour of the world currently. In 2009, I was posted as the Deputy Head of Mission at our embassy in Nairobi in East Africa. Then in 2013, I was promoted to an Ambassador in Bolivia in South America. And now I am in Pakistan in South Asia. So I guess that Australia or North America is next for me…
I believe that Denmark and Pakistan are sharing very good relations despite being far apart in terms of distance and culture. We have many joint interests and areas where collaboration between Denmark and Pakistan is mutually
beneficial. Trade between our countries is increasing and is now close to half a billion USD annually. And it is well balanced – Pakistan is almost exporting as much to Denmark as we are exporting to Pakistan. We also host a large Pakistani diaspora in Denmark, who are well integrated into the Danish society. And here in Pakistan we have an extensive collaboration on trade, development, humanitarian, peace and stabilization, media, security and culture.
EVOLVE: Europe is going to be Go Green and Danish firms are known as ‘Wind Energy Specialist’. How Pakistan can be benefited from this technology? Are there possibilities of joint ventures between Pakistan and Danish companies?
Mr. Ole Thonke: In Denmark, we were faced with an energy crisis in the 70’s. That led to two strategic decisions: a) To improve energy efficiency and
b) To promote renewable energy. The aim was basically to reduce the dependence
on imported fossil fuels.
This has led to Denmark now being one of the most energy efficient countries in the world with leading technology in especially wind energy and how to integrate renewable fluctuating energy into the national grid. Thereby, we have
technology and experiences that we would like to share with Pakistan either through government to government collaboration or private sector businesses.
EVOLVE: Pakistan is basically an agriculture country and Denmark is also considered to be very rich in terms of food and agriculture. What revolutionary measures have been made by Danish policy makers to achieve this status?
Mr. Ole Thonke: 150 years ago, Denmark had lost several wars and experienced a serious lack of food, leading to famine and a country close to bankruptcy. The government of that time decided that famine should never again be felt in Denmark. The response was large investments in education and agricultural research to boost productivity. Furthermore, the sector organised itself through cooperatives. The principle was that farmers collectively invested in everything from dairies and slaughterhouses to agricultural machinery and fire insurance. This enabled the costs to be divided among many individual producers and thereby increased overall productivity
Nowadays we have a very efficient agriculture business in Denmark with world leading technology. Recently we developed technology also relevant for Pakistan in the areas of cold-chain, milk related products and testing equipment.
EVOLVE: Denmark claims to be the happiest place on earth from tourism perspective. How Danish practices can be transformed in Pakistan’s tourism sector?
Mr. Ole Thonke: Denmark attracts a lot of tourist due to many different reasons. We offer nature, culture, advance gastronomy, architecture and many other pleasures that modern tourists demand. I believe that Pakistan has a great tourism potential. The challenge is security and the perception abroad. If those challenges are solved the tourism industry could be a major source of income – especially in the northern areas.
EVOLVE: Danish consulting engineering companies are known for the best bridge and tunnel builders in the world. How can Pakistan exploit this potential?
Mr. Ole Thonke:
The largest Danish engineering company, Ramboll, which has more than 15,000 employees, recently visited Pakistan. They met with potential customers in the area of energy. But they also discovered that their services in other areas of engineering were in demand, and will start to exploit these opportunities also. It is just a matter of Pakistani businesses reaching out to companies like Ramboll, which will start this collaboration.
EVOLVE: Danish academic institutions are preparing their students to play an active role in a
globalized, knowledge based society. Is there any possibility of collaboration between Pakistani and
Danish universities in future?
Mr. Ole Thonke: Yes – Danish Universities are collaborating with a number of universities around the world. Danish universities have a strong expertise in many areas, e.g.:
• Environment and Climate
• Growth and Employment
• Human Health
• Stability, Democracy and Rights.
I know that there are already Pakistani students in
EVOLVE: How do you opine that what are the most suitable sectors for Pakistani businessmen to invest
Mr. Ole Thonke: Denmark has a large fashion industry. Many world-known brands are actually originating
in Denmark. Therefore, the most obvious area for Pakistani businessmen to be active would be in this industry.
We recently had a delegation of Pakistani textile industries visiting Denmark to enhance the relations.
EVOLVE: What is the mandate of Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and how it is contributing its efforts for Pakistan?
Mr. Ole Thonke: Denmark is one of five countries world-wide adhering to the UN target of providing a minimum of 0.7 percentage of GDP to development assistance. DANIDA is an integrated part of the Danish Foreign Service and has the mandate to execute our development projects all over the world. In Pakistan we have a development collaboration aiming at increasing the number of children in schools, gender equality, economic growth in rural areas and culture. This is coming to an end, but our aim is to initiate a new government to government collaboration
in areas of energy and possibly also water and environment.
EVOLVE: How do you foresee and evaluate the impact of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
on Pakistan’s economy especially on the region where two departed worlds China and Europe are
going to be connected?
Mr. Ole Thonke: I believe that it is an opportunity for Pakistan, which has the potential to contribute positively
to the development of Pakistan. The sheer amount of the investments alone is a testimony to that. However, it must not be seen as a panacea, which will all of a sudden solve all the problems of Pakistan. And Pakistan also needs to prepare itself to reap the benefits of the projects now coming underway. Key areas such as improving the Doing Business index, security, energy, the image of Pakistan, etc. needs to be dealt with.
EVOLVE: How do you evaluate Pakistan, its people and their potential and how do you feel while
working in Pakistan in comparison of other countries?
Mr. Ole Thonke: If the key challenges are dealt with, Pakistan has a large growth potential. It has been included
in the next 11 index and the recent visit by the head of the IMF confirmed that the economy is moving in the right direction. Pakistanis are doing very well all over the world, so I do not see any reasons for why they should not be
doing equally well here if the conditions are favourable.
EVOLVE: Your routine must be very tough, what do
you do to ease yourself?
Mr. Ole Thonke: I love to hike and exercise. Furthermore, I am a big fan of Danish television series, such as “The Killing” and “Borgen”.
EVOLVE: Your message to readers of EVOLVE
Mr. Ole Thonke: Pakistan is a country of many opportunities. If the current trends of improved security, energy
supply and macro-economic situation continues, I believe that Pakistan could easily achieve a growth rate of 6 to 8 percentage.