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Saturday October 23, 2021

‘Pakistan can benefit from Portuguese experience’

September 20, 2021

Islamabad : Portugal’s superior seafaring expertise and maritime strategies combining naval power, trade, and religious and cultural aspects were its key foreign policy instruments during the exploration age. Its rich maritime legacy, the history of former Portuguese colonies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and their role in world affairs today offer many lessons and insights for Pakistan.

This message emanated from a talk by Portuguese Ambassador Paulo Neves Pocinho Republic at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) here.

The ambassador said maritime and geo-strategic thinking, and the science and the arts of sea navigation and international diplomacy practiced by Portugal in the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean regions were the key foreign policy instruments that equipped Portugal to become a prominent maritime power in the age of discovery.

Stressing that Pakistan can learn a lot from Portuguese experience in world affairs, especially in Africa and Latin America, he said: “When I came to know about the ‘Engage Africa Program’ of the government of Pakistan, I approached the Foreign Office thinking it would be very interesting to share our experience in Africa with Pakistan, as well as to explore the potential of trilateral cooperation especially in the areas of science, technology, business, and education.”

The envoy said the Portuguese seized global advantage when it came to shipbuilding, navigation and map-making in the 14th and 15th centuries with their maritime strategy focusing on trading posts and building networks as key components, and the same ideas can serve Pakistan as well if it is to find more feet in international maritime trade and diplomacy.

He said in the Age of Discovery, the Portuguese started going to North Africa, Morocco, the East Coast and then came to South and then finally were able to reach Cape Town in South Africa, and that was the point from where they were able to navigate the Indian Ocean. Also, this was the same time when they went to the other side of the Atlantic, discovering Brazil, which later became the largest country of Latin America.

The ambassador said there were many sides associated with these expeditions, including trade – as the world was looking for vendors around the region of the Indian Ocean, as well as the cultural side, but the Portuguese rise should also be credited to the scientific side as there was a secret, monarch-funded school in the south of Portugal which researched and taught marine science & technology: navigation, shipping and shipbuilding, hence playing a massive role in the Portuguese discoveries that came forth.

He said in 1974, Portugal gave independence to its colonies and continued to invest in Portuguese speaking African countries by helping them out.

"We're cooperating in social development, cultural development, trade relations, investment relations, tourism development, environment protection, capacity building, etc., trying to build something positive out of this cultural heritage which shares language as well as a few traditions."

The interactive session that followed the ambassador’s talk covered different aspects of Portuguese post-colonial era engagements and experience in Africa and their balancing strategy for the US-China rivalry in the Indian Ocean Region.

Former ambassador Tajammul Altaf commended the Portuguese role in furnishing networks and building bridges through language, culture and communications, while helping out Africa through its post-colonial endeavours.

He also stressed the need for finding common grounds by the two nations to shape a better future for the world in general and Africa in particular.