A New Turn in German-Pakistani Relations | Current Affairs | DW | 30.06.2003
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Current Affairs

A New Turn in German-Pakistani Relations

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf arrived in Berlin on Monday for talks with both Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Johannes Rau. Observers hope the trip will help spur German investment in the country.


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf arrived in Berlin for three days of talks on Monday.

Topping the agenda for Musharraf’s three-day visit are briefings on the fight against terrorism, the security situation in Afghanistan and bilateral ties between Germany and Pakistan, which though generally "friendly" and "good," as the German government has officially stated, have also stumbled into some rough patches.

Until the end of the Cold War, relations between Germany and Pakistan were largely dominated by the interests of NATO and the United States. The two sides found more common ground during the late 1970s, when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan. But even after the Soviets' withdrawal from Afghanistan and, later, the fall of the Iron Curtain, Germany and Pakistan continued to promote business and development ties. Between 1961 and 2000, Germany contributed close to €2.5 billion in developmental aid to Pakistan.

But the relationship suffered a serious hiccup in 1998, when Pakistan conducted its first nuclear tests and Germany reacted by eliminating development aid the following year. The move caused the collapse of many existing bilateral economic projects and a significant reduction in the number of new projects approved by the German government. Relations remained somewhat strained until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, after which point Germany and Pakistan began working closer together in the war against terrorism. After a meeting between German and Pakistani officials in Bonn in December 2001, aid was reinstated.

Renewed relations

Pakistan is also keen to benefit from the renewed Western interest in the region, and the government in Islamabad regularly consults European power centers like Paris, London and Berlin on issues of global concern like terrorism and drugs. And while Pakistani officials believe that the war against terrorism has made their country a respectable member of the international community, there is a general feeling in Pakistan that Germany’s new found love is dictated by Washington.

Others discard such sentiments as myth. But Pakistan’s former ambassador to Germany, Asad Durrani, is quick to stress that there is no essential link between U.S.-Pakistan relations and those between Pakistan and Germany. “It is certainly possible for both countries to have a relationship which is not necessarily bedeviled by what may be happening between the United States and Pakistan," Asad Durrani told Deutsche Welle.

High hopes

Pakistani business leaders have high hopes of Musharraf's visit to Berlin. Pervez Iftikhar, an engineer with the German engineering giant Siemens, believes the visit should be used as a means of promoting economic relations to new levels. He says Germans have been investors in Pakistan for decades and that bilateral relations, both on a human and business level go back a long way, and are very deep-rooted.

During the first half of 2001 alone, Germany imported goods totalling €301 million from Pakistan, according to figures supplied by the German Foreign Ministry. During the same period, German companies exported €220.5 million worth of goods -- mostly chemical products, machinery, electronics, autos and ironware.

Iftikhar said he hoped Musharraf would seek to underline the huge investment potential in Pakistan for the German corporate sector.

“I think there can be a lot of investment in hi-tech, in telecommunication, in the production of automobiles, in biotechnology, in the oil and gas sectors and similar fields,” Iftikhar told Deutsche Welle Radio.

Travel advisories
Observers say the German government holds the key to opening up its traditionally cautious corporate sector to Pakistan by removing an advisory recommending that travelers avoid some parts of the country. Following a string of terrorist attacks against western targets last year, the United States and most European countries issued advisories warning tourists and business travelers alike to avoid certain parts of Aghanistan if not all of it.