Saturday February 04, 2023

FM Bilawal urges world to have 'fresh look' at Pakistan in maiden Singapore trip

FM highlights Pakistan's great promise in e-commerce, IT sectors, vows to strengthen country's ties with South East Asian nations

By Web Desk
December 09, 2022
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari calls on President of Singapore Halimah Yacob. —Foreign Office
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari calls on President of Singapore Halimah Yacob. —Foreign Office

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday urged the world to develop a "fresh look" towards Pakistan and move away from its stereotypical image.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman told The Strait, "As a young political leader, I strongly feel that the world needs to have a fresh look at Pakistan, away from its stereotypical image."

The FM told the Singapore-based publication that there are "many opportunities in Pakistan awaiting the world". However, he said that the first step for utilising those opportunities is to lift the travel advisories against Pakistan.

Bilawal said: "I strongly feel that the world needs to look at us more objectively, as a promising emerging market." The FM highlighted the country's young population and rapidly growing middle class.

Ties with ASEAN

The foreign minister specifically mentioned the Pakistani e-commerce market, saying that according to data from German research firm Statista, Pakistan's e-commerce market is estimated to generate $7.67 billion in revenue in 2022.

The FM highlighted Pakistan's freelancers, who provide services in IT, telecom, e-commerce, data analytics, financial services, music, and health.

"Singapore and other Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries outsource many IT-related activities and financial services and can benefit immensely from our young talent."

On the visit, Bilawal stressed that ties with ASEAN countries are a priority for Islamabad. He added that Islamabad is seeking to upgrade its partnership with the regional bloc into a full dialogue partnership.

"Some recent initiatives of ASEAN are of great interest to Pakistan, which we believe are bound to unlock immense trade and investment opportunities for emerging economies such as Pakistan. We believe our start-up and fintech ecosystem can contribute by connecting with Southeast Asia," said Bilawal.

Bilawal is currently on his maiden trip to Singapore as the FM, where he met with his counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. According to a Foreign Office statement issued today, the two leaders reviewed bilateral relations and agreed to enhance bilateral engagements and cooperation.

The foreign minister told the Singapore publication that in the context of ASEAN, Pakistan places great importance on its relations with Singapore.

He highlighted that Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize Singapore after independence; and how Pakistani immigrants have contributed to its development in the initial years.

Bilawal pointed out how the two nations have exchanged high-level visits in the past, including former premier Benazir Bhutto's visit in 1995 and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's visits to Pakistan in 1988 and 1992.

Bilawal added that the two countries lost the momentum in their bilateral relations over time, adding that his trip's purpose is "to revive that momentum and intensify our bilateral exchanges. Pakistan is keen to strengthen this relationship in all dimensions".

Meeting with President Halimah

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called on Singapore President Halimah Yacob as well today.

A Foreign Office statement read, "In the meeting, enhanced engagement and mutually beneficial cooperation were discussed while the foreign minister shared Pakistan's desire to intensify cooperation with ASEAN."