70 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Pakistan and Germany
Dear Birgit Lamm, dear friends of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen!
First of all I have to say this here tonight is a quite impressive counter image to these days of confinement and restraint we have gone through. I would say it’s a majestic, almost imperial antidote to these days that we hopefully will overcome now.
Allow me to say how delighted I am to be here with you tonight at this lovely place, celebrating with you not only the end of our confinement – or almost – but also this evening around cultural and societal diversity, books, cartoons, music and dance. I thank the Friedrich Naumann foundation profusely and in particular Birgit Lamm for inviting me and making all these arrangement for this lovely evening.
Before I briefly touch upon the subject you have asked me to speak about – that is “70 years of German Pakistani Diplomatic Relations” – allow me to say a brief word on the basic idea behind this evening ”Unity in Diversity” because this is a vintage German political and cultural experience and, to some extent, it’s Pakistan’s experience, too. Both Pakistan and Germany are Federal Republics. Pakistan, of course, is a multiethnic state, a fact that is sometimes not sufficiently recognized in Europe. Yes, it is a Muslim state, but we all know how different even faith practices under the big tent of the ‘ummah’ can be. Germany on the other hand is a fairly homogenous nation, however, with a very strong history of regional and sub-regional identities. This diversity – though perhaps different in types and nature – make not only Federal constitutions logical- both in Pakistan and in Germany – but also cultural differentiation, federalism, even unity in diversity.
And there is another interesting parallel and that brings me to the “70 years of Diplomatic Relations” whose beginning we are celebrating in October this year. Both states, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Federal Republic of Germany were founded within two years of one another, Pakistan in 1947 and Germany (at least the dispensation, we all know about, the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1949, both more than 70 years ago. And both these foundations occurred under exceptionally difficult circumstances. The major reason for this was the fact that both states were born under extreme duress. Germany had started and lost a disastrous war, Pakistan emerged from a traumatic split from India. And millions of refugees had to be integrated by both countries. That is I would say a common denominator: To have successfully given millions, who came with no more than the clothes they wore, a new home, is certainly not the least achievement of both countries.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Federal Republic of Germany were founded within two years of one another, Pakistan in 1947 and Germany (at least the dispensation, we all know about, the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1949, both more than 70 years ago. And both these foundations occurred under exceptionally difficult circumstances. The major reason for this was the fact that both states were born under extreme duress.
Looking back at the 70 years of diplomatic relations between two countries which – with certainly a number of differences – share some important features of their political and social DNA, I will briefly mention five areas of particular achievements but still on-going challenges.
- Firstly, the Political Sphere: Here we know the relations between Germany and Pakistan have been close and amicable since the very beginning. Certainly with some ups and down, the latter predominantly during military rule in Pakistan. I am leaving the COVID restrictions of the last year or so for the moment a bit aside, but we have seen political exchanges across the board, even on the highest level, long standing military to military relations, you name it. There are a number of areas on the political field where we cooperate currently quite closely. Moving the quite complex Afghan peace process forward is certainly and currently one of them.
- Secondly, the Commercial relations are quite strong: The EU as a whole is Pakistan`s most important trade partner and that remains so even after Britain has left the EU. The Trade volume between Germany and Pakistan hovering around 3 billion per year (before the Pandemic) is the biggest within the EU. The interesting fact is – it’s very rarely the case with Germany- that Pakistan even has a trade surplus. There are roughly 90 German businesses active in Pakistan. Investment portfolio of roughly 350 million, which is a sound foundation, but could certainly be better still. One of the major tasks of the Embassy is to try enticing German companies to come here, engage in trade and investment, and vice versa: facilitate Pakistani businesses going to Germany, participating in trade fairs – clearly COVID permitting still; which is by and large still quite challenging.
- Third, the development angle: Since 1960 Germany has disbursed roughly 4 billion euro as development aid to Pakistan in priority areas like climate action and renewable energy, good governance with a big chunk in integrating efforts of bringing the former FATA areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and promoting – very important feature – technical and vocational training all across the country. And not least, health matters, including special COVID assistance, polio eradication, portable health station, set-up of a health insurance system which is also I think very important.
- Fourth, civil society: Civil society plays – everywhere but certainly also in Pakistan – a vital, I would even say, a fundamental role in shaping a modern democratic society. To us, hence, civil society empowerment, commitment to human rights and international humanitarian law, protection of ethnic and religious minorities, press and media freedom and good responsible government are of paramount importance in shaping our foreign policy relations with other countries, and Pakistan certainly is no exception here. We are not only appreciative of the democratic achievement accomplished here since February 2008 as Pakistan returned to a democratic dispensation. Since I came here, roughly at the same time as Birgit Lamm came, I am very much impressed by the vitality and robustness of political and societal discourse and the resilience of democratic beliefs and convictions. Certainly, there are still bumps in the road. Areas of constraint and concern are media freedom, on-going human rights violations, encroachments of security agencies, religious intolerance, restraining the work of national and international NGOs, all areas in which we continue to be engaged with Pakistani authorities and Partners. In this context, and because we are here so generously invited by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, let me particularly highlight the significant role our political foundations have played and are playing in this context, not least the Friedrich Naumann foundation, active in Pakistan since the mid of 1980s and well reputed. This is not to say that the foundations had not faced bureaucratic hurdles and impediments in the meanwhile – they had – but by and large, we have managed to make the foundations work effectively, I would say, to the benefit of German Pakistani civil society interaction as we witnessed here tonight.
- Fifth and lastly- although perhaps the most important area- the people-to-people dimension: The key words here are cultural exchange schemes, German language and cultural work in Pakistan, primarily conducted by the Goethe Institute in Karachi and the Annemarie Schimmel Haus in Lahore but also by a number of university lecturers quite across the country. On top come roughly 5000 Pakistani students in Germany and some German students at universities here in Karachi and in Lahore. Indeed, if we want societies to know each other better, even perhaps to cross-pollinate – and I believe strongly that is the way to go in an increasingly ever-closer world – than we have to bring civil society and most notably people themselves into contact and interaction. And that is what we are trying to do for roughly 70 years. Strengthening academic and research exchanges, fostering tourism, making use of the roughly 70 thousand Pakistanis living in Germany mostly as traders and business people to act as a sort of bridge, encourage mutual trade, interfaith dialogue, perhaps even marriages (although I would say that is not primarily the objective of the Embassy). Something great minds like Muhammad Iqbal, who lived and studied in Germany, or the great German orientalist Annemarie Schimmel – two icons of Islamic scholarship imbued with Pakistani-German congeniality – had in mind when talking about – in the words of Wolfgang von Goethe: “A West-Eastern Divan”. I agree, here again is certainly room for further progress, but we are working on a very broad and sturdy basis as we see here tonight. And we certainly need to plan something for the next seventy years.
I express once again my great confidence in resilience and vitality of our bilateral relations, now almost for 70 years alive and kicking. And most importantly, thank you for your most kind attention against this lovely and very impressive background.
Thank you very much indeed.
The Trade volume between Germany and Pakistan hovering around 3 billion per year (before the Pandemic) is the biggest within the EU. The interesting fact is – it’s very rarely the case with Germany- that Pakistan even has a trade surplus.
Key note Speech of His Excellency Bernhard Schlagheck Ambassador of Federal Republic of Germany to Pakistan, at Friedrich Naumann Foundation Pakistan`s event “Celebrating Unity in Diversity: Book Launch and Cultural Night” at Lok Virsa, Islamabad, 25 Feb 2021.