Pak-Germany at 70
The year 2021 marks seventy (70) years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Pakistan. Germany has an embassy in Islamabad, and a consulate in the only metropolis, Karachi. The two countries have enjoyed close and diverse relations since 1951. It all began in Karachi, which was the capital at that time. The two states were born under extreme duress. Germany had started and lost a disastrous war; Pakistan emerged from a traumatic split from India, millions of refugees had to be integrated by both countries. Pakistan was among the first South Asian countries to establish diplomatic relations with Germany.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, speaking on the 70 years of Pak-German diplomatic ties said, “Like all good long-term friendships, ours has never been transitional.There was a time when Germany, coming out of the war, needed a hand and found Pakistan sharing its resources as part of the London Agreement and subsequently, cancelled all debt. Indeed, our ties are underpinned by shared values of democracy, pluralism, diversity, peace and security.”
Development cooperation between the two countries started in 1961. Since then, the German Government has pledged billions of Euros in project support, for renewables, climate protection, businesses, vocational training, good governance and health-care including Covid assistance, polio eradication and portable health stations. The trade and commercial relations have also been quite strong.
The trade volume between Germany and Pakistan hovers around three (3) billion per year (prior to the Pandemic) and is the largest within the European Union. Interestingly, within the EU, Pakistan has a trade surplus only with Germany. In bilateral trade in 2019, German exports to Pakistan were worth around 1.8 billion Euros and imports from Pakistan were approximately 1.1 billion Euros. Pakistan’s main exports to Germany are textiles, leather goods, sports goods, footwear and medical instruments. Whereas main imports from Germany are machinery, chemical, electrical goods, motor vehicles and iron goods.
In June 2021, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Germany and met with his counterpart General Eberhard Zorn, Chief of Defence, German Army.The COAS said, “The Pakistan Army would like to expand bilateral defence cooperation to benefit from German expertise in training and technological advancements. It will have a positive impact both on bilateral relationship as well as regional security.” The German dignitary commended the role of Pakistan in regional peace and security, the efforts of the Pakistan Army in battling the scourge of terrorism and bringing peace and stability to the region, especially Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process. The two sides pledged to further expand defence and security cooperation at all levels. The naval diplomacy between the two countries is also on a strong footing. In September 2021, multiple ships from the partner nations, including Pakistan Navy’s PNS Alamgir, the USS Shiloh and the German Navy’s FGS Bayern, operated in proximity to promote interoperability, share maritime knowledge and improve maritime domain awareness. Germany’s inclusion in the exercise marks the 70th anniversary of Pak-German relations.
Germany’s continuous support to Pakistan is evident from the suspension of debt service of 26.213 million Euro under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative. The German Development Bank maintains an active portfolio of more than 600 million Euros much needed financial cooperation with Pakistan for sustainable economic growth. Moreover, in a first of its kind climate partnership between the two countries to enhance the climate resilience of the vulnerable communities in Pakistan, Germany will provide financial assistance worth 150 million Euros.
Indeed, our (Pak-German diplomatic) ties are underpinned by shared values of democracy, pluralism, diversity, peace and security
The interface is not just confined to government-to-government relations, the people-to-people interactions are also cherished and cultivated. Largely conducted by the Goethe Institute in Karachi and the Annemarie Schimmel Haus in Lahore. The academic linkages between the countries are also very strong. DAAD the largest German academic exchange program is almost a household name in both research and academic circles within Pakistan, countless number of students and researchers have benefited from it. German political foundations are also active and are doing some incredible work. Germany currently has six political foundations, three of which have active presence in Pakistan. The political foundations work to promote people’s civic participation, support young academic talent with scholarships, support the development of democracies, and human rights abroad. The thrust is to support international development based on rule of law and democratic standards. The foundations work in cooperation with selected partners to provide civic education and encourage people’s active involvement in public affairs. They also work to preserve art and culture, award scholarships and grants to the young people for the same.
What strengthens the relationship more is the “Iqbal Link” Pakistan’s national poet Dr. Allama Mohammad Iqbal studied in Heidelberg and Munich over a century ago. A plaque on an old building in Neuenheim reads: “Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, a national philosopher, poet, spiritual father of Pakistan, lived here in 1907.” Iqbal stayed in Heidelberg for six months to learn German for his PhD thesis. Aik Sham Darya-e-Neckar, Heidelberg ke kinare par is a beautiful testimony to it. He paid tribute to the German nation in these words: “The nature has deputed a special duty to every nation. And according to nature, the ordering and the arrangement of human knowledge is the duty of the German nation.”
Prof Dr Annemarie Schimmel (1922-2003) was the representative of “Iqbaliati” movement in Germany. She was well known in Pakistan as she was in Germany. Her take on Iqbal is ‘Iqbal is an ideal example of what history of religion calls a “prophetic” type of an experience which made him soar to new heights.’ Her research work on “Iqbaliat” has a special place in the literature on Iqbal and the sub-continent.
On the foreign policy front, Germany, like Pakistan, wants to engage with the Taliban to provide humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan. Germany has also appreciated the positive role played by Pakistan in bringing about the Doha Process for stability, peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
Pakistan-Germany ties have come a long way since the establishment of formal diplomatic ties in 1951. There is certainly room for further progress and improvement in the bilateral relations. Strengthening academic and research exchanges, fostering tourism, using business people as a bridge, encouraging mutual trade and promoting interfaith dialogue is the way to go.
Pak-German Dosti Zindabad!
The political foundations work to promote people’s civic participation, support young academic talent with scholarships, support the development of democracies, and human rights abroad.