The people, music, nature – my fascination with Pakistan began many years ago. At that time, I was travelling through this amazing country as a young backpacker. Today, I am fortunate enough to also be dealing with Pakistan in a professional capacity – and to have come here again to help further develop the close and diverse relations between Germany and Pakistan which have existed for many decades.
Since August, Pakistan has had a new government which has committed to ambitious and comprehensive reforms in the areas of such importance to the lives of the 208-million people in this country: education, health, the economy or the fight against corruption, which inflicts so much damage on society and the economy. And, not least, support for young people. Around two thirds of Pakistan’s population is under 30 years of age – they are Pakistan’s future.
Germany will support Pakistan as it carries out these reforms. We can look back on a long partnership in development cooperation: Germany has provided a total of around three billion euros to Pakistan to date since 1961. That makes Germany the fourth largest bilateral donor.
We are working closely and successfully with Pakistan in the fields of good governance, sustainable economic development and energy. I would like to name three examples here: we are helping Pakistan to develop vocational training in order to give young Pakistanis better employment prospects. In the export-oriented textile industry, so vital to the country, we are working with Pakistan to improve working and social conditions – and to increase productivity. So far, more than 13,000 employees have benefited from our efforts. Pakistan and Germany are also cooperating in the field of renewable energies.
In addition to Pakistan’s state authorities, international NGOs are key partners in our development cooperation. They have excellent experts in many fields in which Pakistan’s new Government has launched reforms. These international NGOs are therefore able to help people in Pakistan – provided they can work unhindered. If they are allowed to do their work, they and other stakeholders in civil society can help the Pakistan government to strengthen civil society and thus also democracy.
Pakistan and Germany also enjoy good economic relations. Germany is the sixth largest importer of Pakistan goods. Pakistan’s main exports to Germany are textiles and leather goods, while Germany’s main exports to Pakistan are machinery and chemical products. Furthermore, around 30 German companies are operating in Pakistan – not only large firms but also small and medium-sized enterprises.
Companies from Europe’s largest economy are keen to do business with Pakistan. This is demonstrated by the fact that I have been joined on my trip to Pakistan by a business delegation. We very much welcome the new Pakistan government’s efforts to improve conditions for business and to fight corruption. That will make the country an even more attractive location for business for German and European companies.
Furthermore, Pakistan is a key partner for Germany in the foreign policy sphere. Pakistan shoulders considerable responsibility for stability and prosperity in South Asia. The new Government wants to improve relations with neighbours such as Afghanistan and India, also in the trade sphere. We expressly welcome that. Germany is providing civilian and military support for stability in Afghanistan – a stability which is also in the interest of Afghanistan’s neighbour Pakistan. I am therefore especially pleased by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments: “Afghanistan's people need peace. We want peace there. If there is peace in Afghanistan, there will be peace in Pakistan. We will make every effort to achieve peace there.”
Allow me to share my European experiences with you. We Europeans learned in a most painful way and following too many catastrophic wars that peace can only be achieved through cooperation and dialogue, also on contentious issues. This creates an environment in which the economy can thrive and neighbours can live together in peace. The great German man of letters Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) once asked: “Why do we vex one another? Life slips through our hands and we are gathered together like this only once.” He was right. Dialogue and exchange are essential if we are to live together in harmony – not only in the family but also among states.
For decades, we have been cultivating an exchange with Pakistan on many levels, not only in politics. For example, Germany is one of the most popular study destinations for young Pakistanis. We have 32 cooperation arrangements between German and Pakistan universities. Every year, hundreds of Pakistanis go to Germany and thus to the heart of Europe to study or to do their doctorate. There are currently 4100 Pakistan students and doctoral candidates living in Germany.
More than a hundred years ago, in 1907, Pakistan’s intellectual father Mohammed Iqal spent several months studying in Germany: in Heidelberg, the national poet learned German and studied philosophy as well as literature. His poem “Darye Naika Ke Kinare Par” (Greeting to the Neckar) as well as a commemorative plaque in this popular German university town are reminders of his time there. “My stay in Heidelberg was like a beautiful dream”, stated Iqbal.
I know from my own experience what an impression it can make on a young person when they are given the chance to get to know new surroundings. In Austria in the late 1970s, I devoted myself to music – at the Joe Haider Jazz School in Graz and at the Berklee Jazz School in Boston. I would not have missed these experiences for anything! Nor, of course, my travels in Pakistan. What is more, I will never forget being at a very special concert in New York’s Central Park back in 1997 by the Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This was one of his last concerts, for he died far too young.
I am not only fascinated by Pakistan’s music and nature. I am also delighted by the many kind and hospitable people I have had the honour of meeting here over the years – and with whom I have had many interesting conversations. I was also impressed by the many wise words of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who is revered as “Quaid-i-Azam”, the founder of the state of Pakistan.
Shortly before Pakistan was founded, in August 1947, Jinnah made some very astute comments. His words still hold true today and can guide politicians – not only in Pakistan – in their actions: “If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.” Germany intends to continue working with Pakistan to ensure this progress.
The writer has been a German diplomat since 1988. His posts have included Turkey, Nicaragua, the United States, Kenya, Venezuela and South Africa. Since February 2017, he has been State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office, Germany.
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