Interview by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the Pakistani newspapers Nawa-i-Waqt and The Nation on the occasion of his visit to Pakistan on 31 August 2015.
What is your evaluation of Pakistan-German relations at this juncture?
Pakistan is a key player in Asia: it has a dynamic population – the world’s sixth largest – and an economy with great potential. The country is a major partner for Germany in the region and a central partner when it comes to addressing urgent international issues.
I am therefore delighted that relations between our countries are increasingly close. This is demonstrated, for instance, by the large number of high‑level visits during the last few months, by German industry’s growing interest and by the rising number of students from Pakistan in Germany. As an exporting nation, too, Germany is keen to have intensive and friendly relations with Pakistan and would like to support Pakistan in its democratic development.
Pakistan and Germany are partners in the war against terror, Pakistan has launched a military operation against the safe havens of terrorists in North Waziristan. How does Germany look at this operation?
Pakistan itself has been the target of terrorist attacks. The images of the massacre in the school in Peshawar back in December 2014 are still vivid in our minds. Once again, it became clear that it is in Pakistan’s own best interest to take an unequivocal stand and be resolute in the fight against extremist violence of any kind. It is therefore good that Pakistan is denying militant groups their safe havens.
At the same time, I believe it is important that the fight against extremists is conducted in line with the rule of law and that human rights are respected. I am therefore calling for a return to the moratorium on the death penalty. We are convinced that the death penalty is an inhuman form of punishment and, what is more, not an effective deterrent.
Germany has been a partner of Pakistan in its efforts to develop itself economically. What are the future prospects of Germany’s economic assistance to Pakistan?
At present, we are actively involved in the efforts to improve the energy supply, especially in the sphere of renewable energy, police force development and the development of rural regions such as Balochistan and the FATA. However, we will continue to adjust our support for Pakistan’s development, which has amounted to 2.5 billion euros since the 1960s, to the actual need.
I hope that the private sector will play a bigger role in future. The number of German companies active in Pakistan has increased considerably during the last few years. The development of regional infrastructure in particular – such as Gwadar port – offers great potential. Greater economic integration with neighbours India, China, Afghanistan and Iran is the right way to establish an economic area in South Asia which will also be attractive for European companies.
Following the drawdown of foreign troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban have intensified their attacks on foreign as well as Afghan targets. Do you foresee the emergence of a Taliban Government in Kabul?
Afghanistan has a sovereign and democratically elected government which enjoys the support of the large majority of the population. Despite the tense security situation and the bloody attacks of the past weeks: the clock cannot be turned back. Support for the Taliban has declined dramatically. The latest terrorist attacks in Afghanistan are therefore a sign of weakness, not strength. The Taliban should once and for all abandon their confused dream of building an emirate and try to bring their interests to bear in a political process for the good of Afghanistan.
Cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is crucial to the fight against terror and to a peace process with any hope of success. Only if these two countries work together can this challenge be mastered. Germany supports the courageous course pursued by Prime Minister Sharif and President Ghani. Especially following the cowardly attacks of the last few weeks, we very much hope that Afghanistan and Pakistan keep the channels of communication open and continue seeking to build closer relations.