On the occasion of the French National Day it is a pleasure and a privilege for me to address the Pakistani people.
The storming of the Bastille, on July 14th, some 225 years ago was the starting point of the French Revolution and has been celebrated every year since as the National Day of France.
“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” became the national motto. The Declaration of Rights which was adapted in 1790 encompassed principles and universal values which are still the basis of the French democracy nowadays.
On the 14th of July we will also commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War which began in 1914 and all the countries of which soldiers were involved in this terrible conflagration have been invited to participate in the military parade. Representatives of the armed forces of Pakistan bearing the flag of Pakistan will march on the Champs-Elysées as part of this military parade.
Diplomatic ties between Pakistan and France were established in 1947 and since then, the exchanges between the two countries have steadily increased, to become a multi-facetted relationship.
Our two countries, rooted in old civilisations, and each endowed with a strong cultural identity are attached to the cultural diversity making the richness of the world.
Over the past years, I was given the opportunity to visit many cities and provinces in Pakistan, and was impressed by the creativity of a vibrant civil society and in particular by the young people I met with.
Cooperation in science academia and culture has intensified over the past decade and the cultural activities of Alliances Françaises have promoted the deepening of understanding and reciprocal inspiration between our cultures through numerous events, classes and workshops. France also remains one of the most favoured destination by Pakistani students in Europe – over 600 Pakistani students are currently getting their degrees in France - thanks to a dynamic programme of fellowships.
In 2012, we additionally launched a need-based scholarship programme to unable students of less developed areas or Pakistan to attend the most renowned universities of the country, before eventually pursuing their studies in France. Specific attention is given to gender balance with more than 45% of the sponsored students being promising young ladies.
Trade between France and Pakistan has crossed the 1.5 billion USD threshold for the third year in a row in 2013 and has shown an important increase of the surplus in favour of Pakistan with the duty-free access to the EU market for a large range of product through the EU GSP+ mechanism granted to Pakistan in December 2013. We anticipate a new boost in bilateral economic relationship. A visit of a high level Pakistani business delegation to France, last June, will help in developing B to B contacts and a group of French business leaders will visit Pakistan in the first quarter of 2015. With respect to investment in Pakistan, major French products are in negotiation and will hopefully come to fruition anytime soon, strengthening the presence of the 44 French multi-national companies active in Pakistan.
I would like to pay a special tribute to the Pakistan-French Business Alliance and to the Pakistan-French Business Council for their dedication in enhancing bilateral relationship.
The agreements signed between the two governments in the field of water and sanitation, as well as the financial and technical assistance provided to a number of hydropower and energy efficiency related projects will contribute to improve the infrastructures in key areas for the development of Pakistan.
I had the privilege to attend the inauguration, in April 2014 by the Prime Minister of the Uch Power Plant, operated by the French utility GDF-SUEZ, which will generate an additional 1000 MWe.
France expressed its appreciation of the active involvement of Pakistan, in dealing with international peace and security, and paid tribute to the Pakistani armed forces as major troop contributor to the UN peace-keeping operations.
France recognises the security challenges Pakistan faces, and the sacrifices it has made in the fight against terrorism and extremism, and will continue to stand by Pakistan in so doing. During the meeting held last March between the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, and the French President, Mr. François Hollande, reiterated our determination to strengthen the cooperation in the area of security.
Pakistan plays a pivotal role in the stability and security of South Asia and France welcomed the commitment of the government of Pakistan to enhance the regional cooperation and the stability of this part of the world.
Finally, this message on the occasion of the Bastille Day, gives me the opportunity to renew the appreciation of the French community for the hospitability of the Pakistani people, and to express the friendship and the best wishes of the French people to the people of Pakistan for their continuing prosperity. It is also the right time to express my commitment to spare no effort for enhancing cooperation and friendship between the French and Pakistani people.
The writer is the ambassador of France in Pakistan
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