Remarks by DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, at Seminar for the launch of Pakistan Africa Institute for Development and Research (PAIDAR) Thematic Focus: ‘Reviving the Bandung Spirit of Afro-Asian Solidarity: Pakistan-Africa Relations’

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Remarks by DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, at Seminar for the launch of Pakistan Africa Institute for Development and Research (PAIDAR) Thematic Focus: ‘Reviving the Bandung Spirit of Afro-Asian Solidarity: Pakistan-Africa Relations’, ISSI, 18 April 2024

Honourable Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed Sahib,
Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG, ISSI,
Ambassador Shehryar Akbar Khan, Additional Secretary (Africa),
Excellency Ambassador Karmoune, Dean of the African Envoys Corp,
Excellencies, Heads of African Missions in Pakistan,
Heads of Pakistan Missions in Africa,
Eminent speakers,
Distinguished participants,

AoA and good morning!

It is a distinct pleasure to welcome everyone to ISSI for this seminar that marks the launch of the Pakistan Africa Institute for Development and Research (PAIDAR).

The seminar’s thematic focus is on “Reviving the Bandung Spirit of Afro-Asian Solidarity: Pakistan-Africa Relations.”

We are delighted to have a set of very distinguished speakers to share their valuable thoughts today. On behalf of ISSI, I extend our warm greetings and most sincere thanks to all the participants, attending in-person and those joining on-line. We would all benefit from the rich perspectives of the eminent speakers.

Distinguished participants,

PAIDAR is the brain-child of Senator Mushahid Husain Sayed. Over the past many decades, we have all witnessed – with remarkable amazement – Mushahid Sahib’s inexhaustible energy, his unbounded enthusiasm for new ideas and fresh thinking, his unmatched network of friendships and associations across the globe, and his invaluable contributions to the deepening of Pakistan’s relationships with so many nations in the world. His latest initiative aims to sharpen Pakistan’s focus on Africa through promotion of academic research and development partnerships. The Institute of Strategic Studies is honoured to serve as the platform for the launch of this noble mission. The ISSI’s Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa has been working on various tracks of Pakistan-Africa relations. We would lend all possible support to PAIDAR in its work to further deepen Pakistan-Africa ties.

It is fitting that this launch ceremony recalls the “Bandung Spirit” – dating back to 1955 when 29 countries from Asia and Africa met in Bandung, Indonesia, from 18-24 April. Pakistan was one of the 5 organizing states of the Bandung conference, a watershed event which took place at the high noon of the Cold War and in a world divided into two blocs.

The Final Communique’ of the Bandung Conference encapsulated many principles, which now lie at the core of the international community’s endeavours for peace and cooperation. As noted by scholars, the “Bandung Spirit” represented a common desire for: peaceful coexistence; liberation of the world from hegemony, colonialism, imperialism, and any domination of one country by another; equality of races and nations; solidarity with the poor and the weak; and people-centred development.

To this day, the Bandung Conference helps scholars and practitioners understand key concepts such a decolonization, self-determination, and sovereignty. It also provides context for the subsequent development of a range of legal norms and institutions safeguarding the rights of the developing nations, or the so-called ‘Third World’.

Imbued with this spirit of solidarity, and guided by the vision of its founding fathers, Pakistan extended whole-hearted support to the liberation struggles of many African nations. Pakistan has also made valuable contributions to Africa’s peace and security through participation in the UN Peacekeeping Operations.

Pakistan’s first-ever deployment of peacekeepers was in Congo in 1960. So far, over 230,000 Pakistani peacekeepers have taken part in 48 mission in 29 different countries around the globe, primarily in Africa. As of 1 March 2024, Pakistan has 4326 troops deployed in 7 Peacekeeping Missions, six of which are in Africa – namely Abyei, Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, and Western Sahara.

Pakistan’s overall engagement with Africa has been growing in recent years. In 2019, Pakistan expanded the scope of collaboration within the framework of its “Engage Africa” policy. The initiative had the twin objectives of expanding Pakistan’s diplomatic footprint in Africa and deepening economic partnership with the Continent. As a result, five new missions have been opened in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, and Djibouti. Several missions have been upgraded to the Ambassadorial level. We are delighted to have our dear brother Jemal Beker as the first-ever Resident Ambassador of Ethiopia. And more are coming. Also, several major trade and investment conferences have been convened – including in Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt. While challenges persist, the volume of trade is beginning to increase.

Efforts remain underway to strengthen mutual collaboration across multiple fields – from trade and economic to security and defence to education, culture and people-to-people exchanges. There are vast opportunities in the wake of the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area), the largest arrangement of its kind. And there is immense scope for South-South cooperation in line with the “Bandung Spirit.”

Let me conclude by reiterating that, for Pakistan, deeper engagement with Africa remains a strategic imperative. Forging a strong and effective partnership for peace, progress and prosperity is an indispensable goal. This objective must be advanced through a clear vision, consistent policy, and a long-term strategy. There is no doubt that PAIDAR would make an excellent contribution to the development of such partnership under the inspiring leadership of Senator Mushahid Hussain.