Rodolfo J. Martin-Saravia, Ambassador of the Argentine Republic to Pakistan and Dean of Diplomatic corps , completed ten years in Islamabad this year. He was appointed to this position in August 2004 by President Nestor Kirchner, and to date his efforts in promoting bilateral relations between Pakistan and Argentina have been unrivalled.
His Excellency has been instrumental in arranging multiple high level official visits from Pakistan to Argentina, beginning with the visit of the then President Musharraf to Argentina in December 2004 and continuing with visits of federal ministers of commerce, science and technology, railways and including a visit of a Parliamentarian Delegation from the National Assembly in July 2007. During the presidential visit of 2004, an Agreement on Bilateral Political Consultations was signed establishing a mechanism of alternate meetings. As a direct result of the level of understanding that the political bilateral relation had achieved, an Agreement for the Exemption of Visas for Diplomatic and Official Passports was signed in Buenos Aires in December 2004.
Thus, the Ambassador has also arranged official visits from Argentina to Pakistan in a decade which has, at best, been fraught with change in Pakistan. His commitment to the betterment of economic relations has been visible through the visit of the Secretary of Commerce in September 2005 and again, in April 2007. Interspersed were the visits of the President Foreign Affairs Committee of National Assembly in March 2007, the Foreign Secretary in March 2010, the visit of the MNA Julia Perrie in November 2013 and most recently the visit of the Foreign Secretary in April 2014.
Other than the formal official visits, His Excellency Rodolfo excels at the people-to-people contact which modern diplomacy lauds so enthusiastically. In his years in Pakistan he has become an integral part of the cultural tapestry of Islamabad and by extension the rest of the country. His support of art, education, sports and a range of other fields has been unparalleled because of his personal interest and dedication to ensuring that they received appropriate input.
Over the years as career diplomat, Rodolfo has been recognised for his services in virtually every country he has served in. While Pakistan has been honoured to present to him, the ‘Hilal-i-Pakistan’, he is also a recipient of the Knight Commander ‘Order of Merit’ in Greece, Chile and France. Chile also awarded him with Great Officer: ‘Order of Merit’, while in Brazil he received Knight Commander ‘Baron de Rio Blanco’ and Great Officer ‘National Order do Cruzeiro do Sul’. With over a dozen other awards to his credit, Rodolfo continues to be a people’s person and has earned the respect and affection of all those he engages with.
Where most recently he was seen as part of the Adventure Diplomacy Group that facilitated the ascent of Samina Baig and Mirza Ali on seven summits in seven continents, Rodolfo and the Argentinean Embassy have been extremely active in the promotion of culture and sports in the last ten years. Beginning in 2006, a series of Argentine films were presented to the public in collaboration with the Alliance Française of Islamabad. In April 2006 the Embassy, in coordination with the Pakistan Army Chief, brought to Pakistan the renowned polo coach Norberto Fernandez Moreno to train civilian and military polo players, at the Mona Remount Depot. In the month of February in 2007, 2008 and 2009 the Ambassador organized in the city of Lahore, the Argentina Embassy Polo Cup with the participation of several Argentine polo players, forming teams of 20-25 goal handicap
Moving more solidly onto the art-scape of Islamabad, in May 2007, Rodolfo hosted the First Exhibition of Argentine Paintings in Islamabad and Lahore with the participation of 9 artists (Polesello, Cinalli, Benedit, Sojo, amongst others). In October 2009, the Second Exhibition of Argentine Paintings took place in Pakistan, this time involving 15 artists from Argentina (Cinalli, Edelstein, Godoy, Iniesta, Mac Entyre, Schussheim and so on). It was inaugurated in Lahore at the Alhamra Gallery by the Chief Minister, H.E. Shahbaz Sharif.
By mid-2009, Rodolfo had started Spanish lessons for Pakistanis at the headquarters of the Embassy, with Argentine teachers and these were repeated in 2010 and 2014.
In June 2010 the Embassy hosted a photo exhibition “Pakistan through the Argentine eyes”, by the Argentine photographer and mountaineer Tommy Heinrich, and went on to launch the book “Pakistan’s Golden Thrones” a collection of photographs by him.
In his continuing efforts to promote both Pakistani and Argentinean art in April 2010, the Embassy hosted an exhibition of paintings by the renowned Pakistani artist Ghulam Rasul. In December of the same year an exhibition and auction of several paintings of Argentinian artists was held in Karachi to raise funds for flood affectees of the province of Sindh. The next year in December 2011, an Exhibition of 40 paintings by Argentine artist Rodolfo Cinalli was held at the Embassy and later moved to the prestigious National College of Arts in Lahore. More recently, the Embassy of Argentina in collaboration with the Aga Khan Foundation and the Serena Hotel of Islamabad, launched the exhibition “Laberintour” with the Argentine artist Jorge Canale, showing with 5 Pakistani painters.
Music too has benefited from Rodolfo’s presence in Pakistan, with a musical tango show by the guitar trio “Gorosito, Cataldi, De la Vega” at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts and the Marriott Hotels and two great performances of Argentinean Tango dancers in Islamabad and in Karachi in support of the Kidney Centre Karachi.
Rodolfo also, facilitated the signing of the MOU between the Argentine Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) and the Institute of Strategic Studies of Islamabad (ISSI). This year, in April 2014, an MoU on Educational Cooperation was signed between the Argentinean Foreign Secretary and the Federal Secretary of Education.
Argentina has had a rich and deep historical relationship with Pakistan which bore fruit when Argentina took a leading role in 1971 in the United Nations, brokering the cease-fire between India and Pakistan. As a token of appreciation for the Argentinean efforts to promote regional peace, the Government of Pakistan named a beautiful garden in G-6 as “Argentina Park”. Recognising the need for medical and health facilities in Islamabad with the rapidly growing population, Rodolfo has taken a keen interest in the construction of an extension of the Polyclinic Hospital over one third of the Argentina Park, to be called the Argentina Pavilion. The current Polyclinic hospital covers an area of 3.3 acres of land and has 500 beds. The hospital was established back in 1966 with an aim to provide health facilities to the federal government employees. As per PC-I, approved at the start of the year of 2012, of the expansion plan, a new block comprising of a five-storey structure with an additional 1100 beds will be constructed on 2.54 acres of Argentina Park land.
Where his interests in things that make life meaningful – art, music, culture, etc – have struck chords in the hearts of many, Rodolfo has also managed to focus on key areas that are fundamentally important to sustainable growth and development in Pakistan – science and technology, agriculture and oil and gas.
In 2007, under his guidance, the First Joint Committee for Science and Technology was held in Islamabad when an Argentine delegation chaired by the current Minister Science and Technology Dr. Lino Barañao and including Eng. Agueda Menvielle, the Director of International Relations of the Ministry and Mr. Hugo De Vido as Advisor, came to Pakistan. Before the start of the Joint Commission, the delegation visited various organizations and institutions of the sector in the cities of Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Islamabad to assess the level of development achieved by Pakistan in this field. As a result, a number of bilateral cooperation projects were identified and are now under development. The second meeting of the Commission was held in 2008 in Buenos Aires where progress was made in the implementation of various projects of cooperation. Subsequently, Mr. Daniel Luppi visited the National Institute of Electronics of Pakistan in 2009 and provided for the continuation of joint work. The Third Meeting of the Joint Committee on Science and Technology took place in 2011, with the visit of the Federal Minister Changez Jamali and an important delegation consisting of representatives from PCSIR, NIE and NIO. During this meeting, an MoU was signed between PCSIR and INTI.
In September 2005 the Secretary of Commerce and International Economic Relations, Ambassador Alfredo Chiaradia, visited Islamabad to preside over the First Meeting of Joint Economic Trade between Argentina and Pakistan. The delegation was also comprised of the Argentine Secretary of Agriculture, Claudio Sabsay, and the Director General for Foreign Markets, Gerardo Petri. On this occasion the First Bilateral Meeting on agricultural matters was held. The Second Bilateral Meeting on agricultural matters was held a year later with the visit of the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Sikander Hayat Bosan of Pakistan to Argentina with an important delegation. On that occasion resulted in the signing of an MOU on Cooperation in Agriculture with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food of Argentina. These delegations resulted in highly beneficial collaborative projects such as the development of hybrid sunflower seeds in the National Agriculture Research Center (NARC) and research and development of beef cattle for Pakistan which is an ongoing project with the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC).
Rodolfo strongly encouraged Carlos Bulgheroni, Chairman of Bridas International to visit Pakistan to evaluate the interest and the possibilities of restarting the project to build the TAPI gas pipeline starting from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan and finally to India. He also hopes to facilitate participation and investment in gas exploration in Pakistani territory.
One of the most shining examples of Rodolfo’s services to Pakistan is the joint venture signed between Laboratorios Bagó of Argentine and Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd from Pakistan to create B-F Biosciences Ltd. The venture has been successfully operational for over three years and both companies established a state of the art laboratory in Lahore producing medicines of bio technology to treat Hepatitis, a disease rampant in Pakistan, and Cancer. The quality of the medicine is of the top international standards and the prices of the products are substantially cheaper than the imported products of the same formula. This company has developed a full scale program to tackle the huge demand of medicine needed to cure Hepatitis C. It also intends to export to various countries of the region such as Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Phillipines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
Beyond the obvious financial investment and economic commitment, this project is a also a resounding vote of confidence by the Argentinean company in Pakistan. Coupled with the technology transfer and the beginning of private business engagements on such a scale, Pakistan has much to be grateful for because of the vision and dedication of His Excellency Rodolfo Martin-Saravia. While the Ambassador has spent only ten years in Pakistan, he has made friends for life in this country!
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