Interview with Volodymyr S. Ponomarenko, Ukraine's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Volodymyr S. Ponomarenko, Ukraine's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
* * *
"Mr. Ponomarenko, what are your first impressions of Pakistan?"
"When the first group of ambassadors arrived in Islamabad in January, 1998, they realized that Pakistan, unlike Iran and other Moslem countries, did not practice the radical Islam. The people held religion in high respect, but women did not wear yashmak in public and men did not all participate in diurnal Mohammedan prayers. Foreigners worn civilian clothes, women dressed in the national garb.
"Pakistanis have a good idea of Ukraine being proud of friendly relations with the Ukrainians. It should be noted that Pakistan is a pretty unique and striking country with its own national historical and cultural traditions."
"In March, 2002, ten years elapsed since Ukraine and Pakistan established the diplomatic relations. Did Ukraine and Pakistan mark this anniversary in any manner?"
"On occasion of this event Ukraine's Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko sent congratulations to his Pakistani colleague and expressed his satisfaction with fruitful cooperation between the countries.
"The Foreign Ministries of both countries held political consultations, with the participation of Deputy Foreign Minister of Pakistan Anisuddin Akhmed, on the partnership in political, trade, economic and humanitarian spheres and cooperation within the framework of the United Nations.
"Pakistan's mass media place Ukraine in a good light
portraying it as a civilized, democratic, advanced and peaceful European country and showing its advantages and powerful potential, as well as priorities of bilateral cooperation.
"Central newspaper Pakistan Observer published an interview on status and prospects of development of the Ukrainian-Pakistani interrelations."
"Which events could you mention as the most remarkable in the ten-year Ukrainian- Pakistani diplomatic relations?"
"Ten years are quite a long period for the diplomatic relations, especially as compared with eleven years of Ukraine's independence. Among the key events for the both parties are establishment of Pakistani Embassy to Ukraine, in September 1997, in Kyiv, and foundation of Ukraine's Embassy to Pakistan, in January 1998, in Islamabad.
"I would like also to point out a meeting of Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma with Pakistan's Prime Minister, in September 1997, during the 52nd session of the UN General Assembly, in New York, where the leaders discussed prospects for developing the partnership, and Ukraine's President was invited to make an official visit to Pakistan.
"It should be noted that Lieutenant General Borysiuk, the Hero of Ukraine, and delegation of Malyshev's Plant attended the official ceremony of the opening of Ukrainian diplomatic headquarters in Pakistan. Then Ukraine's national flag was hoisted above our Embassy. It was an exciting event which engraved on their memory forever.
"A very important event for Pakistan was Ukraine's fulfillment of famous "tank contract", in 1999, which was highly appreciated by the Pakistani government. This list may be extended to other documents in the field of the Ukrainian-Pakistani cooperation..."
"The relations between Ukraine and Pakistan have deepened recently, haven't they? What is the strategic of their progress?"
"Being invited by Pakistan's President Musharraf Ukraine's President is expected to make the first official visit to Pakistan. The parties are intended to sign a package of Ukrainian-Pakistani agreements and contracts for pushing the development of bilateral relations in various spheres. Pakistan as a developing country offered to Ukraine far-reaching prospects for cooperation in many economic branches, including power engineering, metallurgy, ship-building, space technologies, agriculture, etc. The Ukrainian enterprises are expected to be engaged in the construction of trans- Afghani pipeline for supplying Turkme - nistan's oil and gas to Pakistan.
"The invitation of the Ukrainian hi-tech producers to participate in the international exhibition "IDEAS 2002", last September, in Karachi, is a graphic evidence of great attention paid by Pakistan towards the partnership with Ukraine. When Pakistan's President Musharraf personally visited a stand with the Ukrainian exhibits he emphasized that Pakistan would keep a policy of developing cooperation with Ukraine in various spheres.
"In the near future Pakistan will deliver to Ukraine draft energy projects with specifications to be implemented in Pakistan. Ukraine's specialists may be involved in geological exploration and extraction of natural resources, melioration, exploration of table water reservoirs, etc. A huge potential of the Ukrainian producers and demands of local market, as well as Pakistan's requests for partnership and assistance in implementing concrete projects promise a swift growth of the Ukrainian-Pakistani trade and economic cooperation."
"Pakistan and Ukraine are pretty dissimilar countries. Do they have something in common? In which sphere do their interests accord most closely? Is there whatever discordance?"
"True, these countries are dissimilar. The name, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, speaks for itself. However, they have much in common. For example, there are many people in Ukraine who practice Islam ..
"However, this is not the main factor. Having lost economic relations with the FSU republics,
after winning its independence, in 1991, Ukraine is seeking for new partners for cooperation. In 1995, Ukraine and Pakistan signed a contract which allowed to renew production capacities of the famous Malyshev's Plant suspended as a result of economic crisis of 1992-1994. Hundred thousands of the Ukrainian workers got job, plants keeping unique production technologies. Pakistan also derived its benefit inasmuch as it solved its strategic problem of strengthening its defensive potential.
"Secondly, Ukraine has a pretty huge potential for meeting industrial needs in metallurgical, ship-building, and aircraft construction products. People in Ukraine do not all know about construction of metallurgical works Paksteel in the Pakistani megalopolis of Karachi, in 1970s-1980s, by the Ukrainian specialists of Azovmash, Kryvorizhstal and other industrial giants. They also provided the plant with the Ukrainian equipment. Twenty years later, the enterprise has needed in repair and replacement of blast furnaces, rolling mills, automatic machinery, etc. Pakistan asked the Ukrainian specialists to render a technical assistance in the re-equipment of the works. Participation in tenders and further renewal of the enterprise allows Ukraine to get ten million dollars for supporting our enterprises.
"This list of examples of economic cooperation may be extended. However, it is quite enough to realize that we have much more common interests than differences."
"What would you say about economic relations with Pakistan, as a whole? Have we progressed in this direction?"
"Currently, trade turnover between the countries leaves much to be desired. Last year, it reached a trifle over USD 100 million, with Ukraine having an export surplus. Signing of new contracts in military, technical and civil sphere will allow us, at least, to exceed this level.
"As mentioned above, our countries have good prospects for enhancing of trade and economic relations, which trace their roots back to the Soviet Union times, long before Ukraine's independence, when the Ukrainian specialists made a great contribution into construction of the Pakistani industrial giants, including the above Karachi metallurgical works, as well as hydroelectric power systems in Guddu and Multan, thereby laying a foundation for industrial development of Pakistan. Many Pakistani specialists who lead various production lines of the Pakistani industry got education and training in the Ukrainian educational establishments. All the above factors create a favorable climate for the promotion of the Ukrainian-Pakistani economic relations at the current stage.
"Naturally, since that time much water has flowed under the bridges, and it is impossible to make good money on old luggage. However, a reasonable use of large experience in the Ukrainian-Pakistani relations will promote an expansion of Ukraine's interests on the Pakistani hi-tech products market. I would like to note that, in 1960s, by order of the former Soviet government, large consignments of equipment and machines, including military ones, were delivered to Pakistan from Ukraine. However, later, Pakistan did not turn into a graveyard for out-of-date Soviet motor vehicles. Pakistan is utilizing economically all the opportunities for supporting its technological park. Delegation of specialists from the Kremenchuk Automobile Plant which was allowed to inspect some Pakistani auto fleets was surprised with a great number of the Kremenchuk trucks of 30 years' prescription among other vehicles made by leading world companies. They are in pretty good fettle and being repaired can travel the South-Asian roads. Despite the fact that Ukrainian plants have not already produced spare parts for such outdated KrAZs, they appear on the Pakistani roads as an advertising of reliable Ukrainian products.
"Among peculiarities of developing economic cooperation with Pakistan are some objective difficulties on the path towards entering a very capacious local market of goods
and services. Pakistan being a member of the World Trade Organization, the Pakistani businessmen are much more experienced in conducting business under the extreme market conditions, where all the factors must be comprehensively analyzed, on the basis of marketing research, and taken into account for successful promotion of products... Unfortunately, the Ukrainian businessmen do not all carry out thorough marketing research before submitting an application to the Embassy for the assistance in seeking for partners for sales of products by export of which Pakistan is among the leaders on the world market. Sometimes, the business is impeded by a lack of efficiency and experience in the execution of some documents and banking guarantees for the participation in large tenders. Among examples is this year's default of the Ukrainian machine-building enterprises in tender on the renewal of the Pakistani railroad car fleet, when Ukraine had a big edge on the other participants, but a lack of free funds for the execution of banking guarantee resulted in a lost multi- million contract. Currently, Pakistan is finishing its preparations for a tender on the re-equipment of separate production cycles at the Karachi Metallurgical Works, with the participation of the leading Ukrainian specialists who designed and constructed the plant in 1970s-1980s. They are just those who have the best chance of winning the tender.
"Ukraine has a huge scientific, technical, production and industrial potential. Development of modern management and experience of fitting to strict market conditions will allow Ukraine to convert its edge on other competitors more efficiently.
"At the same time, Pakistan may offer beneficial contracts to Ukraine, including delivery of high-quality textile goods, cotton, leather, carpets, furniture, etc. at moderate prices, for example, the Pakistani-made shirts and footwear imported to Ukraine in the Soviet time."
"Recently, Pakistan's domestic and foreign policy endowed new specific features. Which events and factors did cause the changes?"
"True, Pakistan's domestic and foreign policy has drastically changed even during a four-year period since the establishment of Ukraine's Embassy. Embassy's employees were eye-witnesses of nuclear tests, military coup d'etat, and Pakistan's participation in the anti-terrorism coalition in Afghanistan, dangerous opposition at the Pakistani- Indian frontier. This list of dramatic events may be extended. It should be noted that, last year, Pakistan's domestic policy underwent cardinal changes as a result of elections to the National Assembly (the lower chamber of the Parliament), election of Parliament's speaker and new members of the Cabinet of Ministers. In this way the country got back on the democratic path after a three-year military regime headed by General Musharraf."
"What are the most interesting events in the current political life of Pakistan?"
"Firstly, I would like to point out the election of Chaudri Amir Husein, a member of the Pakistan's Moslem League (QA), as the Parliament's speaker. The whole diplomatic corps was invited to participate in the inauguration session for demonstrating a transparency of work of the newly elected National Assembly. In the course of election procedure some parliamentary fractions, including Pakistan's People's Party, Pakistan's Moslem League (a wing of exiled former Prime-Minister Navaz Sharif), coalition of religious parties Muttakhida, Mejelis, Amal put forward their candidatures of speaker. The elections were democratic and fair. Representatives of all parliamentary groups could support or reject each candidate. Before the inauguration session, pursuant to the Constitution of 1973 as amended, the acting President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf was sworn in for the next five years, that produced debates at the constituent session of the National Assembly on legitimacy of amendments to the Constitution made during the rule of Musharraf after military coup detat of October 1999. The
elections to the National Assembly, as a whole, testify to democratization of the Pakistani society and return to a civil regime.
"The President's inauguration was attended by members of the government, governors of four provinces, military commanders, representatives of diplomatic missions accredited in Islamabad and mass media. Ukraine's Ambassador to Pakistan personally congratulated Musharraf on his presidency and expressed his striving for fruitful development of bilateral relations.
"It should be noted that at the first session representatives of religious parties elected to Pakistan's National Assembly blamed legitimacy of amendments to the Constitution introduced by Musharraf. After the speaker's election this coalition declared itself the parliamentary opposition and convinced the electorate of upholding its principles during elections of the Prime-Minister. This fact also testifies to a democratic progress after the military coup detat of 1999.
"It should be noted that Musharraf completely kept his promise pledged when capturing the rule in October 1999, to conduct general elections after a three-year military regime. "
"As regards information relations: Is Ukraine comprehensively covered by the Pakistani mass media? If not, why?"
"It should be pointed out that Ukraine is quite enough covered by the Pakistani mass media, and the Embassy makes its best endeavors to enhance Ukraine's coverage in many fields of Pakistan's information space.
"Since the establishment of Ukraine's Embassy many conferences, round tables and bilateral meetings with official and business circles have been conducted, some of them being broadcast by the Pakistani national TV. The mass media published materials on the life and political activities of Ukraine's President Kuchma, reports on the development of democratic, economic and social reforms, global importance of closing the Chernobyl Atomic Power Plant, etc., thereby raising Ukraine's positive image. Ukraine's Embassy organizes meetings and briefings with the Pakistani mass media, holds press-conferences and interviews of the Head and personnel of the Diplomatic mission dedicated to remarkable events in the life and history of Ukraine, such as celebration of Independence Day, Victory Day, results of the Yalta GUUAM Summit, 60th anniversary since the beginning of Great Patriotic War, the 5th anniversary since adoption of the Constitution, closing of the Chernobyl APP. All these measures are aimed at coverage of Ukraine's achievements on the path towards democratic transformations since winning the Independence. The Embassy prepared and published press-releases, organized meetings and interview with representatives of the leading information agencies and held Days of Ukrainian language, literature and culture.
"The Pakistani mass media pay great attention towards visits and work of Ukrainian delegations in Pakistan. This manner of spreading information about Ukraine is the most efficient, insofar as the information agencies publish materials simultaneously in several periodicals. Last May, an interview of the Head of Ukraine's diplomatic mission to APP information agency on Ukraine's achievements, its economic, scientific and technical potential, status and prospects for the development of bilateral relations, political, trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan was published in the central English-language periodicals, such as Pakistan Observer, The News, The Nation, Dawn, as well as in Urdu-language newspapers Jang and Khabren. Our Embassy organized and supported a wide coverage by the local mass media of activities of Ukrainian delegations in Pakistan, including delegations of Ukrainian National Foreign Economic Corporation Vazzhmashimpex, the Kharkiv Malyshev's Plant and Morozov's Design Bureau, Azovmash, the Nikopol Machine-Building Plant, the Kriukiv Railroad
Car Building Plant, AvtoKRAZ, the Kyiv Antonov's Plant, Dniproavia airlines (Dnipropetrovsk), the Kyiv International Institute for Linguistics and Law, etc.
"Coverage in the local mass media of visits of the Ukrainian delegations in Pakistan and results obtained in their work with their Pakistani partners has promoted intensification of all-round Ukrainian-Pakistani relations, strengthening of positive image of our state in the conscience of different sections of the population and raising its prestige in the international arena. "
"Which top officials of the country of accreditation have you managed to contact recently? What kinds of interests have Pakistani in Ukraine?"
"The Embassy's diplomats hold regular meetings with the official representatives of Pakistan's government, i. e. Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Industry, Defense, Internal Affairs, Finance, the National Bank, Ministries of Communication, Education, Culture, Science and Technologies.
"I would like to note that all the issues that arise in the bilateral cooperation are always solved positively. The Pakistani officials always treat our country with respect demonstrating a desire to strengthen cooperation in all the spheres. Figuratively speaking, Ukraine always has "a green" light in this country.
"As regards my personal meetings, I can say that only during a recent year I had meetings practically with all the members of the Cabinet of Ministers of Pakistan. These are the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Defense, Economy, Finance, Railways, Education, Culture, etc. However, I would like to note that we have especially warm relations with acting President, General Musharraf. I was personally introduced to him in 1998 when he was Pakistan's Land Forces Commander. During this period I had meetings with him when he was Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, Head of Joint Committee of Headquarters Chiefs, Head of Executive Power and President of Islamic Republic. Last meeting was held after his adjuration as a Head of the country. At that period I had an opportunity to express my confidence in further fruitful development of the Ukrainian-Pakistan relations. It was a brief meeting, therefore, it is worth mentioning once more about our meeting during a military equipment exhibition "IDEAS-2002" in Karachi, in September 2002. The President visited Ukraine's exhibition board noting that
" Pakistan appreciates Ukraine's positive contribution in the development of the country's defensive potential and hopes to develop in future the fruitful contacts both in the military and civil spheres". The Head of the Ukrainian delegation emphasized that top authorities of Ukraine consider Pakistan to be a promising partner and are ready for expanding a spectrum of mutually beneficial cooperation. An expected visit to Islamabad of Ukraine's President is a bright evidence of the above. Pakistan's leader confirmed his sincere readiness to have a meeting with the Ukrainian President at the date agreed by the Parties.
"I had also an occasion to have a meeting with the former President Rafik Tarrar, as well as with the former Prime-Minister Navaz Sharif. However, all this remained in the past. "
"Which Pakistan's officials are expected to visit Kyiv?"
"Before speaking about visits of Pakistan's officials to Kyiv I would like to note that our Embassy is efficiently working over the organization of official visit of Ukraine's President to Pakistan. A specific data of visit is to be finally determined after election to the National Assembly, election of a Prime-Minister and transfer of authority to a civil government since under the Constitution of 1973, it is just the Prime-Minister of Pakistan who takes a final decision as regards one or other state or official visit to the country. Thus, since the process of his election and appointment of government has completed, soon the terms of visit will be at length determined.
"Pakistan is very interested in the visit of the President of our country since it is planned to sign a whole set of important bilateral
agreements, namely: trade and economic agreement; agreement on avoiding a double taxation; agreement on the mutual protection of investments and many others.
"In Kyiv, we are waiting for the Minister of Trade, representatives of industrial, business circles and other newly elected members of Pakistan's government. Pakistan's officials have already set the stage for this visit. "
"Are there any signs of the Ukrainian life in Pakistan?"
"Sure, though there is a bare handful of our countrymen who came to Pakistan for permanent or temporal residence after marriage. Our Embassy, first of all, our Secretary for Consular Affairs V. Pankovsky is constantly assisting our compatriots in the protection of their interests, execution of the required documents, search of the relatives, etc.
"Especially active contacts with our community are held during elections. The Embassy's doors are always open for our countrymen. They seek our help and support. I would like also to emphasize the Embassy's efforts aimed at seeking our citizens who disappeared without trace or were captured during military operations in Afghanistan in 1979-1989.
"During the last five years the diplomatic representation has made an analysis of many data regarding the destiny of these people. Information was being constantly gathered in the course of official and non-official meetings of the Embassy's diplomats with the respective representatives of Afghanistan in Pakistan, the competent structures of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and more specific information was obtained by help of contacts with the representatives of Afghan and local mass media, as well as by direct contacts with the participants of military operations on the territory of Afghanistan. Efficient assistance to the Embassy was rendered by the Afghan population. We managed to establish contacts and obtain information about some countrymen, which, heretofore, were considered to be missing. Due to effective measures of the Embassy the information was obtained about H. Tsevma, O. Levenets and others. According to our data, until recently they lived in the south provinces of Afghanistan. Jointly with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Pakistan, State Committee of Ukraine for Veterans and Ukraine's National Committee of Red Cross our Embassy in coordination with the International Committee of Red Cross and Afghanistan's Embassy to Islamic Republic of Pakistan continue to work hard over the issues of returning our countrymen to our Homeland and retrieving information about the natives of Ukraine. For this purpose, we established working contacts with the force structures of the country of staying and representations of the respective international humanitarian organizations. Due to these joint efforts we established contacts with a native of Donetsk region, the above said H. Tsevma who disappeared without trace on August 28, 1983. We got his photo and a personal letter with a request to assist him. With the assistance of Ukraine's State Committee for Veterans we developed a plan of Tsevma's return to Ukraine and of further regulation of his life in the Homeland. We got a confirmation of V. Kuskov's death and found his burial place, received his personal things (cap, jacket and trousers) which he had on before his death; and we got a specific information about circumstances of his death.
"In Islamabad, there exists the Ukrainian diaspora where the Ukrainian holidays are observed and where evening parties of the Ukrainian-Pakistan friendship and days of the Ukrainian language and literature, musical parties, etc. are held.
"Materials the subject of which is Ukraine, development of bilateral political, trade- economic, scientific and technical, educational, cultural and humanitarian and other spheres of cooperation (Newspapers "The News", "Dawn", "The National", "Observer",
and Magazine "He & She") are regularly published in the local press.
"In Pakistan, Ukraine is known and respected as a reliable partner and friend, ready to help in hard times. The Ukrainian experts and specialists headed by O. Ponomarenko in the 70-ies of the past century designed and constructed the Karachynsk metallurgical industrial complex. Specialists from our country constantly participate in tenders relating the reconstruction of the above object and are held in respect in Pakistan.
"Hundreds of Pakistan's citizens, graduates and former students of the Ukrainian higher educational establishments are working in the various branches of the economy of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Pakistani know very well about the high level of the Ukrainian education and science and appreciate it. "
"And finally, I would like to hear in brief about conditions under which our diplomats live and work. "
"From the very beginning the staff of diplomatic mission of the Ukrainian Embassy to Pakistan has been leasing a building with cabinets for diplomats, a waiting room, and spacious halls for negotiations and cozy rooms for visitors. There is also a grassy glade with the National Flag and Emblem. "
- And now tell me, please, whether you are glad to work in Pakistan?
Yes, I am. It is a pleasure for me to represent our beautiful Ukraine in Pakistan. I and my colleagues do our best.
Interviewed by Volodymyr MUZYKA
Translated by Olha Zahorodnia
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