During my five years in Germany I learnt and realised that the nation has an amazing belief in the value of hard work, essence of democracy, efficacy of conflict resolution mechanism, advantages of economic cooperation and the beauty of cultural exchanges. From Hamburg to Heidelberg, physical and infrastructural wonders make one literally wonder whether wars were fought between this and other European nations. As is well documented, the post-World War II Germany, which was bifurcated, was able to have committed, labourious, meaningful and non-corrupt political leadership that very wisely put the country on the path of consolidation at the level of society and state. Certainly, the Pakistani leadership can learn certain lessons from Germany to improve its lot. In this respect, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharifís visit to Germany has necessitated contextualisation of not only the visit but also mutual areas of cooperation between the two states.
To begin with, the Germany-Pakistan relationship cannot be examined in seclusion of the domestic, regional and international dimensions on both sides of the partnership. The uncertain security and political-economic condition in the South Asian region have constrained Pakistanís set of choices into sticking to an isolationist mindset. Instead, increasing internal challenges such as trade deficit and low macroeconomic performance along with societal clashes and crises has intensified the need to look beyond our borders and even region. Hence, to meet Pakistanís domestic commercial and energy needs, Islamabadís resort to Berlin could be regarded as a welcome move. However, the two countries generally lack a clearly defined policy infrastructure that may help build long lasting, sustained and friendly bilateral relations. For example, quite lately, within Germany, Pakistanís regional status is often relegated to the extent that, at times, it is categorised among Middle Eastern states or it bracketed among other South Asian countries. Very interestingly, I remember my visits to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) office in 2006 where, to my surprise, Pakistan was linked to the desk that deals with students from Iran. Nevertheless, probably having realised the strategic, cultural and educational needs and significance of Pakistan, DAAD now runs an office in Islamabad that is catering to a great number of local students and scholars.
In order to enhance the level and degree of state-to-state and people-to-people contact, the establishment of certain forums and bodies is essential. In this regard, the German Chamber of Commerce Network (AHK) is braced by the federal ministry of economics and technology on the basis of a resolution by the German Bundestag to see the possibility of establishing a combined Pakistan-German chamber of commerce and industry. Moreover, German businesses and companies are investing and earning profit in Pakistan in areas such as surgical instruments, machinery, automotive, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and related services and equipment. There is potential of business expansion in the said areas. However, contrary to German trade activities in Pakistan, the latterís presence is almost non-existent in Germany. Indeed, bilateral trade between Berlin and Islamabad is less than three billion dollars per annum. Therefore, Pakistani corporations should start thinking rationally about how to access the German market. Optimistically, currently, there are over 500 Pakistani corporations that have contributed in 16 different trade exhibitions held in Germany in 2011. The Pakistan-German trade capacity in the last decade has increased moderately with room for further growth i.e. $ 1.9 billion.
Pakistanís bilateral trade with Germany generally gets affected due to several local variables. For example, there is no effective policy to improve the nature and size of export supplies. As a consequence, Pakistanís exports to the European Union in general and Germany in particular are determined by the supply rather than demand side of market economy. Another weakness in the system of the countryís economic retrieval is the energy crisis. Though the Pakistani civil government has pronounced reduction in circular debt, undoing of fuel subsidy, effective management of transmission and distribution losses, and collaboration with regional and international stakeholders for energy consumption, there is still little clarity on policy implementation.
In view of the foregoing, the recent visit by PM Sharif takes an optimistic view of Germanyís investment in solving, for example, the energy crisis. As is already mentioned, the strategic prominence of Pakistan for Germany has been historically low. Little surprise that the formal state-level interaction Islamabad witnessed in the 1960s, with West Germany was the indirect circulation of German weapons to Pakistan and that too through Iran. This interaction was stopped by Bonn on strategic grounds. Nonetheless, after 9/11, Pakistan-German collaboration in such transfers was visible though at a very limited level. For instance, of all the arms deals with Pakistan, German exports were pretty minor, amounting to only two percent.
The German government identified, in 2005, that Pakistan was the fourth most important receiver of German weapons outside the NATO nations. In addition, during those crucial years, Pakistan received aerial reconnaissance, radar equipment etc. from Germany. The foregoing strategic and commercial interaction has implicitly encouraged the two states to enhance the existing level of cooperation in areas of mutual interest. For example, as a result of recent conferences and consultations between Germany and Pakistan came the development of a roadmap for the Pakistan-Germany strategic dialogue that was given formal shape in 2012. This, in my view, has helped to increase engagement at the state and foreign secretary levels. However, the said framework is still under utilised. There is urgent need to make it effective by organising regular talks, seminars and conferences to explore areas of further cooperation and solutions provided to issues mutually faced by the two countries.
To cap it all, the recent state level visit by the Pakistani PM to Germany is a welcome step in the direction of exploring mutual areas of interest and collaboration. Being energy deficit, Pakistan can benefit from the German experience with solar technology among other items. Nevertheless, in order to taste success, Pakistan has to trade off in terms of fulfilling Berlinís expectations on the war on terror. This requires a proper re-visit of our national policy. In addition, the Pakistan government has to make sure the fruits of the signed contract reach the hunger and energy-stricken common man. In addition, the PM in particular and Pakistani leadership in general should try to internalise the values of liberal democracy, belief in peaceful coexistence, benefits of economic cooperation and traits of honest and committed leadership from Germanyís past and present.