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LAHORE: “Pakistan and Republic of the Maldives have friendly and historic relations and the two countries always cherish this relationship”.

These views were expressed by Maldives High Commissioner to Pakistan Farzana Zahir while addressing an interactive session on “Tourism Opportunities in Maldives” held at Lahore Chamber.

LCCI President Mian Nauman Kabir, Senior Vice-President Mian Rehman Aziz Chan and Vice-President Haris Ateeq also addressed the meeting while former president of LCCI and Honorary Consul of Maldives Yawar Irfan Khan and members of Executive Committee of Lahore Chamber were also present during the meeting.

The HC said that Maldives is a great destination for leisure and tourists. She said that 85 percent of the workers in Maldives hotel industry are vaccinated.

Farzana Zahir said that last year one million tourists visited Maldives and only five thousand Pakistani tourists visited Maldives, adding that the two countries need to work together to increase tourism and trade volume.

She said that so far flights are being operated by Sri Lankan Airlines and direct flights would also be launched between the two countries.

Speaking on the occasion, Lahore Chamber President Mian Nauman Kabir said that Maldives is famous all over the world for its tourism. The Maldives is a magnet for tourists from all over the world due to its islands, beautiful blue seas, sparkling sandy beaches, magnificent cliffs and a variety of water sports. The Maldives is rich in incredible beauty and natural beauty.

He said Maldives is endowed with incredible beauty and splendor of nature. With a small population of around half a million dispersed across 185 islands, Maldives is steeped in rich culture and traditions.

He said tourism has been the key driver of growth and poverty reduction in Maldives. It has also been the biggest source of foreign exchange and revenue for Maldives, adding that Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with Maldives, which are based on cordiality, mutual respect and common interests. Both the countries are members of SAARC and signatories of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). Despite that the mutual trade volume between Pakistan and Maldives is very limited which can be strengthened by enhancing liaison among the private sectors of both countries.

Mian Nauman Kabir said that Maldives offers a lot of trade and investment opportunities to businessmen and industrialists of Pakistan. So far as our mutual trade ties are concerned, I think we need to do much more to know about each other’s potential areas for enhancing trade. According to the trade data issued by State Bank of Pakistan, total volume of trade between the two countries was just US 6.14 million dollars in 2020-21. Whether the balance of trade is highly in favour of Pakistan but there is a lot of room for considerably enhancing the trade volume.

The global imports of Maldives stood around 1.2 billion dollars in 2020 while Pakistan’s exports to Maldives were merely around 6 million dollars. It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan can provide several goods and services to Maldives particularly pharmaceuticals, rice, furniture, surgical instruments, halal meat, vegetables and fruits etc.

Lahore Chamber SVP Mian Rehman Aziz Chan said that tourism is one of the priority sectors of Pakistan government. We would like to take advantage of the experience of Maldives to modernize the tourism sector in Pakistan. We believe that joint ventures should be undertaken in the relevant fields of tourism which would prove to be a good way to strengthen the bilateral relations.

LCCI Vice-President Haris Ateeq said on the occasion that Maldives is an Islamic country and Pakistan can export Halal food there which has a lot of potential.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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