Italy considers easing visas to Pakistanis

| Businessmen, tourists to be beneficiaries | Senior diplomat says Rome is positive towards Islamabad’s proposals

ROME - Italy has been considering introducing visa relaxations for Pakistani businessmen and tourists to strengthen Pak-Italy relations, a top Pakistani diplomat in the Italian capital said.

Tanvir Ahmed, the deputy head of the mission at the Pakistan embassy in Rome, said that Italy had shown a positive response to Pakistan’s proposals on the visa issue.

Speaking to The Nation at his office here, Ahmed said that Italy had expedited visa cases of the Pakistani businessmen and tourists in recent months.

“They (Italy) are providing visas to Pakistanis at a higher rate over the months due to our efforts,” he said.

The senior diplomat said that Pakistan had also reciprocated by softening visa formalities for the Italians.

“We have granted visas to Italians within hours in some cases. We allowed them multiple entries to facilitate them. The idea is to engage the two nations. We already have friendly ties and are hoping to improve the relationship further. Pakistanis work in large numbers in Italy and contribute to their economy” Ahmed said.

In Italy, Pakistanis form one of Europe’s larger diaspora communities. The number of Pakistanis living in Italy varies, media reports in 2017 gave numbers higher than 130,000.

Most Pakistani migrants are employed in the north of Italy, around Milan, they earn roughly $ 700-1000 per month in wages.

Even those who entered the country illegally obtain jobs and employment permission fairly easily, due to labour shortages in Italy caused by the ageing population and the shrinking workforce.

Ahmed said that Pakistanis always queued up outside the embassy for one reason or the other. “There is a lot of work pressure but we try to help the Pakistanis in every way, we can,” he claimed.

The diplomat said that Pak-Italy defence and cultural ties were also improving, bringing the two countries closer.

He said that Italy had been a major participant in Pakistan’s scientific contribution to the world, and both countries established the international conference on astrophysics and relativity in 2011.

Italy favours a free trade agreement with Pakistan, within the context of the European Union, he said.

Ahmed said that Pak-Italy defence ties had a good past and a bright future. “There is so much potential and the trust level between the two countries is appreciable,” he remarked.

In May, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat visited Italy on the invitation of Chief of Italian Defence General Staff Gen Claudio Graziano.

During the meeting, matters of bilateral interests including defence and security cooperation were discussed.

In the last few years, Italy and Pakistan have been discussing the matters of counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, defence production and regional stability and security.

Italy has shown a willingness to engage with Pakistan at a time when Pakistan’s defence relationship with Western suppliers remains precarious.

In October 2017, Pakistan and Italy held the 11th Pakistan-Italy Joint Committee on Defence Systems meeting in Rawalpindi. 

On that occasion, the Italian delegation was led by Lt-Gen Nicolò Falsaperna, the Deputy Secretary General of Defence and the Deputy National Armaments Director.

Later, on the invitation of Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, former minister for defence Khurram Dastgir Khan visited Italy.

Italy has been the leading western supplier to Pakistan. In the 1990s, Finmeccanica, now known as Leonardo, provided radars for the Pakistan Air Force’s F-7s and Mirages. 

In recent years, Pakistan has been actively purchasing more equipment from Itlay and the most notable purchase was 10 batteries for the MBDA Spada 2000 Plus medium-range surface-to-air missile systems in 2007, costing $475 million.

In May 2016, under a fleet renewal programme, Pakistan selected and ordered four Leonardo AW139 utility helicopters for its emergency medical services and for search and rescue requirements.

After the delivery of these helicopters in two batches within 18-months, the government of Pakistan ordered an undisclosed number of additional AW139 intermediate twin-engine helicopters.

These machines, to be delivered in 2019, can be used for passenger transport, to perform emergency medical and utility service operations across the country.


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