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Turning a new page

National

April 11, 2021

The emergence of Germany in the 21st century as a developed economy, liberal democracy and a multicultural pluralistic society is a testimony to the strength of German culture and the resilience of its people. In a world of converging interests, it has become essential for states to harness synergies for the benefit of their peoples. This interdependence, irrespective of the level of development of countries, has become the need of the hour, as the world comes together to address and ameliorate the social and economic chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is in this spirit of convergence and interdependence that the visit of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Berlin from 11-13 April 2021 assumes heightened significance in further strengthening Pakistan’s outreach to Germany, the economic and political powerhouse of European Union. The visit also coincides with the 70 years of establishment of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Germany.

Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit to Germany, taking place after nine years, is an effort to re-energise the longstanding bilateral ties while turning a new page with diversified and meaningful cooperation in the field trade and investment, technology transfer, education, health, legal migration, climate, energy and culture.

Germany has emerged as an attractive destination for students from Pakistan, especially those interested in higher studies. Currently more than 5,000 Pakistani students are studying in various educational institutions throughout Germany. Since 2004, the cooperation between Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has translated into more than 300 young Pakistani academics gaining doctorates at German universities. These PhDs are now bringing expertise to teaching and research across various universities in Pakistan, enriching the education environment of Pakistan and bringing diversity to the university life in Germany.

Global dynamics have undergone a major transformation in recent years, necessitating candid exchange of views and discussions between German and Pakistani leadership on regional and international events that continue to impact and shape our future. The vital role of Germany in EU is universally acknowledged as is it’s visibly proactive role at the global level. The visits of Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, in March 2019 and German Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Niels Annen, in January 2020 are a testament to breadth and depth of our relationship. Simultaneously, Pakistan is playing a constructive and responsible role, especially in its challenging neighbourhood to ensure peace and prosperity. This role, acknowledged and appreciated, by the international community, has been, especially, instrumental in facilitating the Afghanistan peace process.

In sync with its constructive engagement on regional and international issues, economic development, especially through trade and investment is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s policies. Foreign minister’s programme of engagements and interactions has this objective at the core. Pakistan and Germany already enjoy good economic and trade relations. Germany is Pakistan’s fourth largest trading partner globally, there is however a need to diversify this cooperation for the benefit of both Germany and Pakistan. Cooperation in the fields of energy & power, vaccines, transfer of technology, agriculture, technical training exchanges, legal migration, etc. are some of the areas that would provide opportunities for substantive engagement on both sides. It is hoped that this visit will set in motion a series of substantive activities leading up to the visit of my prime minister to Germany.

It is important that while we make efforts to bolster our cooperation in recent times, we should not forget that Pakistan’s relations with Germany are augmented by historical linkages, as our revered national poet, Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal lived and studied philosophy in Heidelberg and Munich. Iqbal’s deep admiration for Germany, its people and its literary culture resonates in his poetry and also amongst the people of Pakistan. His work reflects the German influence, especially the poem dedicated to river Neckar, Heidelberg. There is an Iqbal- Ufer (Iqbal Street) in Heidelberg and a plaque in Munich to commemorate, Allama Iqbal, the poet of the east.

There is an "Allama Iqbal Fellowship" at South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University, which is considered extremely significant; and the institute has time and again expressed its appreciation regarding the deputation of Pakistani scholars.

Being alma mater of our national poet, the Iqbal Chair in Heidelberg University carries immense significance for Pakistan.

I am hopeful that the foreign minister’s visit, in spite of COVID-19 situation, would be instrumental in providing the much-needed impetus to deepen and strengthen the existing ties for the benefit of both the countries through substantive economic, educational, scientific and cultural exchanges.

The writer is Ambassador of Pakistan to Germany