Scottish businesses can tap potential of Pakistan, says top UK diplomat

It is the world’s sixth largest country by population and occupies a strategic location vital to global security.

Mike Nithavrianakis will later this month become a deputy high commissioner in Pakistan

But Pakistan also offers businesses in Scotland untapped potential for expansion, according to a senior UK diplomat about to take up a key ambassadorial position in Karachi.

Mike Nithavrianakis, who will later this month become deputy high commissioner in the country’s leading commercial hub, said he hoped to capitalise on the strong family ties that already bind Scotland and Pakistan.

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The diplomat is the son of a Greek father and a Scottish mother and grew up in Castle Douglas in east Galloway, joining the Foreign Service in the 1980s.

Mike Nithavrianakis will later this month become a deputy high commissioner in Pakistan

In an interview with The Scotsman, Mr Nithavrianakis identified renewable energy as one potential sector where Scottish skills could be utilised in the coastal city of Karachi, which has a population of 15 million.

“There are a number of Scottish businesses already based in the United Arab Emirates, usually with an office in Dubai, which is just a 90-minute flight away from Karachi,” he said.

“Pakistan exports more good and services to the UK than we do to Pakistan. There is a deficit there that would be good to reverse.

“For Scotland in particular, the infrastructure changes taking place in Pakistan present opportunities in terms of project management and consultancy, whether it be construction or finance.

“In terms of energy, particularly renewables, their expertise is already being exported to places like China and I’m hoping Pakistan can be added to that.

“In terms of education, I think our universities are well placed to create institutional partnerships with higher education providers in Pakistan. It’s about seeing it as a two-way link.

“There is a growing middle class in Pakistan who want access to quality education and I think Scotland can help with that.”

More than 49,000 Scots claimed Pakistani heritage at the 2011 census, with by far the biggest concentration living in Greater Glasgow.

The links between the two countries are something Mr Nithavrianakis sees as a real advantage to his posting. This week he has met with various community and business groups before he takes up residence in Karachi.

“I see myself as a facilitator,” he added. “I can try and do the introductions between Scottish and Pakistan society.”

He continued: “If there are Scottish businesses already working in the Gulf, it’s not difficult to get into Pakistan.

“They may have been put off in the past by bureaucracy or corruption, but I think slowly that’s changing.”

Mr Nithavrianakis added that Pakistan had endured some “terrible atrocities” since the turn of the century but that security was improving in parts of the country. He pointed to the resumption of British Airways direct flights to Pakistan, and the planned visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the autumn, as examples.

Away from diplomatic life, Mr Nithavrianakis recently completed the Edinburgh Marathon in memory of his late brother, a fisherman from Castle Stewart, raising £7,000 for the Fishermen’s Mission.