Foreign Minister Maas meets with his Pakistan counterpart Qureshi in Berlin
Photo of the two Ministers meeting, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net
Marking the seventieth year of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is visiting Germany from 11 to 13 April. As a neighbour of Afghanistan, China and India, Pakistan plays an important role with a view to stability in South Asia.
In October 1951, Pakistan was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the young Federal Republic of Germany. Germany is now Pakistan’s prime trading partner in the EU. For Germany, Pakistan is an important partner in efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan plays a significant role in questions related to regional stability in South Asia. This is why the political and security policy situation in the region figured prominently during the meeting of the two Foreign Ministers – along with bilateral cooperation in the seventieth year of diplomatic relations between Germany and Pakistan.
An important actor in Afghanistan
Pakistan has strong social and cultural ties with its neighbour Afghanistan. The decades-long conflict in Afghanistan is also very much impeding Pakistan’s efforts to promote stability and development at home. For example, Pakistan has taken in approximately 2.5 million Afghan refugees and migrants. Germany and Pakistan both have a direct interest in finding a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan has repeatedly declared it is willing to do its part to make this happen. For example, the country helped bring about the Afghan peace negotiations that are currently taking place in Doha. Germany, too, is actively supporting the negotiations in Doha. The level of violence in Afghanistan must imperatively be brought down in order not to jeopardise peace negotiations between the Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Pakistan has repeatedly made the same appeal.
Signs of a lowering of tensions in the difficult relationship with India
Since the founding of the countries of India and Pakistan after the Second World War, their relationship has been marked by rivalry and mistrust. This climate has been worsened by four wars that have left deep scars in the collective memory of people on both sides of the disputed border. This is why the two countries’ recent steps towards détente are not a matter of course. The sharp rhetoric of recent years has been replaced by a respectful exchange between the two heads of government. On 25 February, the two countries’ military leaderships agreed to strictly observe the ceasefire that has been declared for some time along what is commonly known as the Line of Control that separates the parts of Kashmir that are administered by India and Pakistan. These are cautious, albeit encouraging, signs of an easing of tensions, and further steps must follow.
A multifaceted country with many challenges
With a population of approximately 220 million, Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world. It comprises a large number of different ethnicities. Compared to other countries in South Asia, the country is not yet well developed for tourism. It does, however, have impressive historic monuments that date back to the Hellenistic and Mughal periods, a wild and romantic mountainous landscape in the north and the second highest peak in the world, the K2.
However, Pakistan also faces a wide range of challenges that include a high population growth rate, threats posed by different terrorist groups and the effects of climate change. Tensions regularly arise in Pakistan between different religious groups, and these are at times aggravated by public hate campaigns. Religious minorities often do not receive enough protection. What is more, the strict and in part vaguely formulated blasphemy laws in Pakistan are repeatedly misused. The German Government conducts a regular exchange with the Government of Pakistan on these issues, among others.