German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said that Pakistan needs urgent financial help from the International Monetary Fund “within the coming six days”. After talks with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad on Tuesday, Steinmeier told a joint news conference that Germany would help Pakistan to negotiate the deal with the IMF.
Steinmeier meets Pakistan's president Zardari on Tuesday
The German foreign minister's visit to Islamabad was a welcome relief for Pakistani leaders. Struggling to mobilise urgent cash assistance to avoid defaulting on its external payments, Pakistan is hoping Germany can play an important role at the "Friends of Pakistan" meeting at Abu Dhabi in two weeks.
Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he had asked his German counterpart for active support: "I have requested the foreign minister to support Pakistan's case at the EU and at the 'Friends of Pakistan' group, because what we are looking at is not aid but trade, not fish, but we want to learn how to catch fish."
Pakistani officials also requested greater access to their exports within the European Union because, minister Qureshi said, this could improve Pakistan's financial health. Within the European Union, Germany is Pakistan's fourth largest trading partner.
Balancing military means and development
At a joint press conference with Qureshi, Frank Walter Steinmeier also underscored the need for effective economic support for the country which is now suffering the consequences of its deep involvement in the war against terrorism:
"We need a mix of military means to fight terrorism on the one hand, and on the other economic development of the region, and here we have to find a balance between these two urgent matters."
Promoting Pak-Afghan dialogue
Foreign Minister Steinmeier welcomed the increasing contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan and hoped that the mini peace Jirga held in Islamabad on Tuesday would also help improve their relations. At the Jirga, both Pakistani and Afghan representatives agreed to take up talks with the Taliban militants through tribal elders.
Steinmeier said he hoped that the Jirga process continued, as it might help in bringing peace to the border region.
Pakistani-Afghan relations have gone through several ups and downs, with distrust and suspicion usually accompanying the official rhetoric. International troops led by NATO and the US also view this acrimony as detrimental to the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. That is why all NATO countries including Germany, with over 3,000 troops based in Afghanistan, have been nudging the Pakistani and Afghan governments towards greater interaction to improve their relations.