South Asia is a region of great strategic and economic importance for Germany and Europe. Minister of State Niels Annen emphasised that Germany therefore intends to further intensify its cooperation with key partner countries in the region during his trip to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan over the course of several days, which ended on Friday (17 January).
Pakistan plays a key role with respect to stability and peace in the region
Strengthening regional cooperation to promote peace and security in South Asia was a key focus of the first destination of his trip in Pakistan. Minister of State Annen spoke to Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas, Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser and Chief of Army Staff Qamar Bajwa about the country’s key role in efforts to improve stability in the region and, in particular, about initiatives supporting a peace process in neighbouring Afghanistan. Other topics of discussion included the situation in Kashmir, a region fought over by Pakistan and India, as well as human and minority rights and German investments in Pakistan.
The Minister of State exchanged views with human rights activists, religious representatives, journalists and think tanks on the situation of the freedom of the press and freedom of religion, as well as the scope for civil society in Pakistan. During visits to the Bari Imam shrine, a hospital for leprosy and tuberculosis sufferers and a project supporting children and women, Minister of State Annen was briefed on social challenges in one of the world’s most populous countries.
India – working together to promote the rules-based international order
Germany has long enjoyed a close partnership in a spirit of trust with India, which will soon be the world’s most populous country. Both countries have similar views regarding matters of international development and security policy and are committed to maintaining and expanding the rules-based international order, for example within the framework of the Alliance for Multilateralism launched by Foreign Minister Maas.
The challenges facing this order as a result of increasing power competition and attacks on established norms and institutions of international cooperation were an important topic of discussion at this year’s Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, where Minister of State Annen gave an opening speech at the invitation of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Key issues discussed during talks with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale were the situation in the region, including Afghanistan and the Middle East, as well as the potential for deepening the strategic partnership between Germany and India in such areas as the digital transformation, economic exchange and environmental and climate protection. Discussions with representatives of political parties and think tanks provided an opportunity for an intensive exchange on India’s domestic political development and the issue of minority rights.
On the margins of the Raisina Dialogue, Minister of State Annen also met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, with whom he discussed the preservation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) with Iran and the situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Afghanistan – support on the path to peace
The efforts surrounding a peace process as well as the domestic situation and the reform process in Afghanistan were the focus of the last two destinations of Annen’s trip. Following talks with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive of the Government Abdullah Abdullah, other high-ranking government representatives and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto, Minister of State Annen stated that the latest efforts being made towards a peace process gave rise to hope for a durable resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan. Germany, Annen said, would continue to support Afghanistan as a reliable friend and partner in meeting these challenges in the future. However, he added, success would also depend on the appropriate participation of all relevant social groups in the country in potential peace talks. To this end, it was necessary for stakeholders to remain in a position to reach compromises in domestic politics and to approach the results of the presidential elections in a responsible manner, he said.
At the end of his trip, Annen travelled to Mazar-e-Sharif, where he met the German soldiers stationed there, as well as members of the German Police Project Team and German aid organisations. The Minister of State expressed his sincere gratitude for the great commitment that they have shown under difficult personal circumstances. Particularly in view of the many years of international support for Afghanistan, he pointed out, achievements such as the progress made in building democratic structures and institutions or in the equality of women and men should not be called into question. Discussions with representatives of the provincial government, provincial parliament and civil society provided an opportunity for an exchange of views on perspectives from the north of the country regarding the efforts to secure peace in Afghanistan as well as domestic developments. All those involved in these discussions were in favour of continuing Germany’s comprehensive support for Afghanistan.