Pioneer of diplomat-to-people contact, An exclusive chat with Martin Kobler

Martin Kobler taking a look at Truth Tracker Magazine

Islamabad: Have you ever witnessed a foreign emissary visiting a country like Pakistan getting shaved by a roadside barber or passing through narrow streets on a bike sandwiched between two other people or running a manual sewing machine while sitting on the ground?

Let us meet the one and only, Martin Kobler, German ambassador to Pakistan. Mr. Kobler, 65, is a career diplomat and came to Islamabad almost a year ago. In this short period of time, he needs no introduction across the country because he has been portraying Pakistan akin to an excited foreign tourist; admiring Pakistani people and the beautiful landscape; interacting with the general public, which is very unlikely for an ambassador in Pakistan these days. He chose twitter as the main tool to launch himself in Pakistan reaching nearly 70K followers via @KoblerinPAK

During his stay here, he has visited several scenic areas of the country, along with his team, and he appears to be a brand ambassador for the mesmerizing landscape of Pakistan and its beautiful people.

In a very frank and candid talk with Truth Tracker recently, he said, “It is very important to improve image of Pakistan because the image of Pakistan abroad is unfair and of course it is the role of media to work on this,”

About his gestures, different from the other diplomats, he said, “I think it is also important to be independent and not to be perceived as partial to one side or the other in order to promote an honest and good picture of the country.” He believed that social media activities are very important towards promoting a positive image of Pakistan due to their far-reaching audience.

A few weeks ago, he ran a small campaign on twitter urging people to save water in Pakistan, which is facing environmental challenges and water scarcity. He pleaded not to waste water while cleansing teeth and washing cars. He called for beating plastic pollution, urging not to use straws and polythene bags. He motivated people to take care of the birds in scorching weather.

Several people on twitter criticize him for being an unlikely diplomat and being in a happy mood, while not talking about serious challenges and human rights violations in the country. Sharing some serious thoughts regarding certain issues, he shows that he is not oblivious to the challenges faced by Pakistan. However, showing a lighter side of the country and its people is equally important for him because it would improve country’s overall image, which is considered tarnished amongst other parts of the world.

He showed serious concerns regarding the spread of terrorism across the world, including Pakistan and Germany. “In Germany we are trying to limit Islamic terrorists’ and extremists’ influence but our major concern is the surge of rightist populist movements in Europe in general.”

He said, “I believe we need dialogue, roundtables and understandings for better conflict management instead of always opting for the use of force.”

Mr Kobler is also not oblivious to his main duty; promoting trade between the two countries and making serious efforts to have a German-Pakistani Chamber of Commerce to attract German companies. “This is one of my main targets, setting up a chamber to ease trade activities between the two countries.” However, he expressed disappointment regarding the policies which promote foreign trade and expressed concerns about the extraordinarily difficult procedures and different checks while handling foreign traders and companies.

He referred to the visa policy in particular, and denying the presence of foreign heads and executives of the companies and other organizations in Pakistan. “As of now we have 30 German companies representing in Pakistan while across the border we have seven thousand German companies operating in India,” he said. “In Pakistan we have one German representative of a German company and in India there are 700 such representatives sent by German companies. And as an ambassador I am not satisfied with the wide disparity that exists between the two representations,” said the ambassador.

He said that he is trying his best to strengthen trade ties between Germany and Pakistan and soon the people of Pakistan will see the outcome of the efforts. “In my opinion, Pakistan needs investments in power, health, water and industrial sectors,” he added.

To a question about the people of Pakistan, he said, “Pakistani people are loving and hospitable. Wherever, I go, they welcome me warmly.”

When Truth Tracker pointed out that Germany traditionally had tilt towards Pakistan Peoples’ Party in past and asked about his opinion about Pakistan’s political party, he said, “Germany supports democracy in Pakistan wants to see a strong democratic system here. No matter which party is in the government.”

In past, Pakistan witnessed different people-to-people contact campaigns by different countries. Mr Kobler went a step ahead and gave a new dimension to diplomacy by launch his ‘diplomat-to-people’ contact campaign. He says, “Already Germany is having students exchange programs with Pakistan which would be expanded soon.”

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