Naghmana A. Hashmi: Strengthening diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Belgium

Belgium was one of the first countries in the world to recognize Pakistan’s independence. It opened its Embassy in Karachi in December 1948. Since then Belgium is continuously and without interruption been engaged in Pakistan. Sometime in 1954, Belgium and Pakistan signed a general visa waiver agreement which is still in place, but is now restricted to holders of only diplomatic passports. Several companies from Belgium have quickly understood the importance of Pakistan and over the last 65 years invested heavily in the country. For instance, Belgium built the first port in Gwadar in the 1980s. Belgium has also assisted Pakistan in all its hours of need, whether its devastations of the 2005 earthquake or 2010-2013 floods. This being said, that relations between two countries are based on common sense and action, not on rhetoric. These relations are matter-of-factly and geared towards concrete results.

The embassy of Pakistan in Brussels tends to play an important role in strengthening relations between the two countries.  The appointed diplomat at the embassy holds an imperative position for enhancing cooperation.  Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, the European Union and Luxembourg, Mrs. Naghmana A. Hashmi is successfully highlighting the positive image of Pakistan.  Recently while addressing a large gathering of Belgian and European parliamentarians, senior diplomats, academics and media persons at the Pakistan Day reception arranged by the Embassy of Pakistan in Brussels to mark 77 years of the Pakistan Resolution, she said, “The improvement in security situation  has resulted  in a positive impact on Pakistan’s  economy and with a substantial increase in its economic growth rate the country can  be seen going on the right track of  development to become an Asian Tiger in near future”.

She is an advocate when it comes to dispel all the apprehensions and myths regarding Pakistan.  She says that Pakistan has made huge sacrifices in war against terrorism. The sacrifices made were not only for the security of its own citizens but to make the entire world safe from the menace of terrorism and being the frontline state, it suffered most in terms loss of human lives and material resources. Ambassador Naghmana is also promoting the culture and traditions of Pakistan by arranging several cultural events. Such initiatives indeed use to bridge the gap between the inhabitants of both countries as well as use to negate all the misconceptions. In September 2017, Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi hosted a cultural event and traditional Pakistani lunch for the members of the British and Commonwealth Women Club Brussels (BCWCB) at the Pakistan house. The event was attended by women. The participants were introduced to Pakistani culture through an exhibition of Pakistani arts and crafts that filled each and every corner of the house with Sufi music played in the background. While addressing the women, Ambassador Naghmana Hashmi briefed them on the rich history and culture of Pakistan, informing them that contrary the misperceptions about Pakistan, the country enjoys a vibrant economy and tolerant society.

Trade between Pakistan and Belgium has been growing steadily over the years, but there is still potential to maximize the trade and economic ties. Sector-specific measures are required to enhance the two-way commerce to the desired level. In 2015, the level of bilateral trade stood at $817 million, which increased to $1.22 billion in 2016. Increasing trends were witnessed both in imports and exports over the last two years, which led to a healthy transformation in bilateral trade. This all would have not been possible without the diplomatic support and backing which is indeed the foundation for building more inclusive relations.

The ambassador Naghmana is also very keen about the role of Europe in the world affairs particularly with reference to Pakistan at different occasions she use to elaborate that the political and economic engagement and cooperation between Pakistan and the European Union has been on constant rise. She use to point out growing trade potential between Pakistan and the countries of European Union which has increased at a considerable pace in the wake of grant of GSP plus status to Pakistan. She once revealed, “”However there was a need to expand export basket of Pakistan through diversification and efficient methods of production, the commitment to work and punctuality have proven to be major contributors in the progress of European countries, adding that young Pakistanis must try to know about strong values of other nations as well”.

Recently First ever Pakistani food and cultural gala week in the European Parliament was organized by the Embassy of Pakistan in Brussels. The opening ceremony of the gala was attended by more than 500 participants comprising mainly of vice presidents, members of European Parliament, senior officials of European Commission, European Council and External Action Service, ambassadors, academics, businessmen and media.  Documentaries on the socio-economic development of Pakistan introduced the bright face of emerging Pakistan to the participants of the event. Speaking on the occasion Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, the European Union and Luxembourg Mrs. Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi, introduced various facets of Pakistan, not only as a country full of scenic beauty and hospitable people but also as a country having huge potential for trade and investment. She is also supporter of the right of self-determination of the Kashmir’s, who are suffering since long by the atrocities of the Indian forces. At the occasion of Kashmir solidarity day on 5th of February 2018, Mrs. Naghmana A. Hashmi, expressed solidarity with the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir and condemned the atrocities being committed by the Indian forces of occupation particularly highlighting the illegal use of pellet guns and rape as weapon to suppress the freedom struggle of people of Kashmir. When it comes to extend support to the youth of Pakistan and to provide them opportunities so they can excel, Naghmana Alamgir is always very vocal. She says that younger generation should focus on priorities about Pakistan and give due importance to the economic and social development of the country through entrepreneurship and innovation.

Pakistani Women diplomats are steadily gaining prominence in key world capitals, most notably in the European bloc where they hold key positions in leading EU member states and Naghmana Alamgir is one of them. All of them are known for their competence and commitment. It is on merit that these senior women diplomats are where they are today, a fact their colleagues acknowledge unequivocally.

However, the role of Pakistani women in diplomacy dates back to 1952 when Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan became the first woman to be appointed as ambassador. She served as Representative of Pakistan to the 7th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Ra’ana Liaquat was the first Asian woman to receive the United Nations Human Rights award. At present Pakistan has 107 foreign diplomatic missions abroad including consulates and embassies. The total number of serving ambassadors is 85.

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About Leyla 15 Articles
The writer is Head of International Affairs Desk at Mélange Int’l Magazine & Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).