ISLAMABAD - Austrian Ambassador Brigitta Blaha hosted a reception here to mark the national day of her country.

Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch was the chief guest on the occasion.

Austrian embassy has the tradition of celebrating the national day at the residence of the ambassador and Brigitta Blaha maintained that tradition. She opened the whole house and the lawn for the reception. A cake was cut by the chief guest along with the European ambassadors while national anthems of Pakistan and Austria were played.

Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Inomata termed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s US visit successful. He said that Japan has always stood for better relations between Pakistan and United States.

While talking about the October 26 earthquake, he said it is time to train students in the schools about the emergency of earthquake. He elaborated that Pakistani students should be well trained to meet and face earthquake.

Ambassador of Greece, Dimitrios Zoitos, when asked about the earthquake, replied that he was with the European ambassadors at the US embassy having briefing there about the prime minister of Pakistan’s visit to Washington. The chargé d’affaires of Sri Lanka Wijayanthi Edirisinghe informed that the new high commissioner of Sri Lanka to Pakistan has been nominated by her government and she has passed his name to the foreign office of Pakistan. She further said that the new high commissioner is a retired Army officer named Maj Gen (Retd) LKJC Perara.

The new ambassadors of Italy, Norway, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Philippines, Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and European Union will present their credentials to the president of Pakistan on 3rd November, 2015. Abdul Qadir Baloch in his speech greeted the Austrian government and the people on behalf of Pakistani people and the government. He said that Pakistan and Austria enjoy friendly relations since the creation of both countries. He appreciated the role of Austrian government in various sectors to support Pakistan, especially in energy sector.

Gen Baloch remarked that presently the trade between the two countries is $200 million which is less than its potential and there is a need to improve this trade to further benefit the people of both the countries.

Brigitta Blaha said Austria attaches great importance to its relationship with Pakistan. Talking about Austrian personalities’ contribution for Pakistan she said Leopold Weiss played a significant role in Pakistan’s early history as he was co-author of the Pakistani constitution as well as Pakistan’s first representative to the United Nations. He converted to Islam and changed his name to Mohammed Assad.

She further elaborated that Begum Viqar-un-Nisa Noon, the wife of former Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon (1957–1958), was Austrian and served as Pakistani federal minister for tourism and culture.

While talking about the Austrian expedition in Pakistan Brigitta Blaha said that Hermann Buhl was the first Austrian to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak in 1953 and prominently represented in climbing expeditions to the high peaks in the Karakorum.The Austrian ambassador said that presently Austria-Pakistan relations are focused on business and education. She pointed out that in the first half of this year Austrian exports to Pakistan increased by 80% and imports from Pakistan by 26%. She said Austrian companies in Pakistan are mostly working in the energy sector, which is of great importance to Pakistan and has also been a priority of the present government.

Brigitta Blaha talking about the cultural relations between the two countries said that they are preparing an Austrian-Pakistani Music Festival for 2016 and have already started a dialogue with several musicians and musical groups.

The ambassador further said that three pillars of the UN Charter — peace and security, economic development and observation of human rights — are today as valid as they were 70 years ago.

The ambassador also presented an award to Khurshid Bhatti, a resident of Hyderabad, for his services in renewable energies. The Energy Globe Award was founded in 1999 by the Austrian energy pioneer Wolfgang Neumann and is one of today’s most prestigious environmental awards. It is awarded annually to projects focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energies and the conservation of resources. It invites outstanding sustainable best practice projects to participate in the annual competition. Some 800 projects and initiatives are submitted annually from all over the world.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.