Preparation for the Withdrawal

ISLAMABAD/BERLIN | | pakistan

ISLAMABAD/BERLIN (Own report) - On the weekend, the German Foreign Minister held talks in the Pakistani capital, to prepare for the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan. Berlin is seeking to intensify the "strategic dialogue;" it had initiated last year with Islamabad, explained Guido Westerwelle. In return, the new Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to play a "constructive role" in Afghanistan. Various cooperation projects underpin the "strategic dialogue," which the German government wants to use to apply the necessary pressure on Islamabad - also in relationship to Afghanistan. Germany would like to promote not only economic cooperation but cooperation between both countries' military forces as well. Berlin has also promised new arms deliveries to Pakistan. German government advisors are now warning against Pakistan's plans to resolve its civil war with the Pakistani Taliban through negotiations. This could only complicate the situation for pro-Western forces in Afghanistan. Therefore, negotiations should be refused.

Rely on the West

With his visit to Pakistan, the German Foreign Minster is seeking to strengthen the bonds between that country, under its new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Germany. Berlin sees quite a good basis for success. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) points out that Sharif comes "from a family of industrialists" and represents "a liberal economic policy."[1] He would like to "stimulate the economy, the exports and bring more foreign investment into the country," which is essential, given the poor state of the Pakistani economy, writes SWP: "If Sharif wants to implement his most important economic projects," he would "have to rely on close cooperation with the West." Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Sharif agreed to prepare an "investor conference for Pakistan" to be held in Germany and to establish a German-Pakistani Chamber of Commerce to rapidly strengthen their economic relations.[2]

Military Cooperation

There are efforts to intensify Pakistan's ties to Germany in various fields, including that of military cooperation. During his visit to Islamabad in January 2011, the Bundeswehr Inspector General initiated a "Pakistan-Germany Strategic dialogue" between the respective military leaderships, to reinforce their already close cooperation. In March 2012, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière signed a cooperation agreement in the Pakistani capital, extending the exchange in military policy and training, including regular staff consultations at the level of General Inspectors, as well as cooperation in the "war on terror." On his return to Islamabad in March 2013, de Maizière made a brief visit to Swat Valley, one of the hotly disputed border regions with Afghanistan. The permission to visit this region is obviously a Pakistani exclusive form of concession.

Demilitarization through Arms Exports

Germany is simultaneously arming Pakistan's military. Since 2004, Berlin has regularly approved the export of armaments to Pakistan in the two digit millions. In 2007, that country ranked seventh, in terms of export licenses, for German military hardware. In late April it became known that the German defense ministry is planning to supply approximately 40 BO-105 Bundeswehr helicopters over the next few years. State Secretary Thomas Kossendey wrote in a letter that the helicopters must be "demilitarized" so as to preclude their "potential military use as anti-tank helicopters." But specialists confirm that the helicopters could still carry out military functions.[3] For decades, the Pakistani armed forces have been benefitting from the license, granted by the West-German government in 1963, for autonomous production of the Heckler und Koch G3 assault rifle. Production began in 1965 - just in time for Pakistan's second war with India.[4] Also Pakistan may still export the G3, the standard weapon of its army, without German approval.

Strategic Dialogue

All of the cooperation efforts are embedded in a "Roadmap for the Pakistan-Germany Strategic Dialogue" concluded in Berlin between Westerwelle and his Pakistani counterpart September 4, 2012. The "Dialogue Roadmap" includes "all important areas of cooperation," announced the foreign ministry, including cooperation in the field of foreign and military policy, as well as the "enhancement of trade relations." "Annual meetings shall be held at the level of State Secretary of the foreign ministries. In addition, Foreign Ministers will meet on an ad-hoc basis."[5] These steps are particularly aimed at consolidating Berlin's position in the region, following the withdrawal of major contingents of the Western troops from Afghanistan. An open escalation of the Afghan civil war cannot be excluded. In such a case, Pakistan could prove an extremely valuable ally.

Islamification

However, the Sharif government is considered quite unreliable. Sharif's party announced that if it wins the election - which, in the meantime, has happened - it would negotiate at least an end to the Pakistani civil war with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, TTP). Sharif is considered very apt in this negotiation strategy. He is rooted "in the beliefs of a conservative orthodox Islam," has supported the "forced Islamification" of Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator of the 1980s, and has initiated "legislative initiatives to anchor the Sharia" during his two previous terms as prime minister, according to a publication of the Military History Research Office (MGFA).[6] German government advisors are warning against negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban. They would "jeopardize the recent military and political successes of the past few years and again create an autonomous realm for militant organizations," according to the SWP. This would also "indirectly be of benefit to the Afghan insurgents," who "have their safe havens in the Pakistani tribal areas."[7] This would be a serious blow to pro-Western forces.

Constructive Role

Sharif promised Foreign Minister Westerwelle to play a "constructive role" in the relations with Afghanistan, in the future - particularly following the withdrawal of a major contingent of Western troops, late next year.[8] Enhanced economic relations, intensified military contacts, as well the "Strategic Dialogue" will furnish Berlin all the necessary means for eventually intervening in Islamabad - in the event of actions that Berlin considers "unconstructive."

[1] Christian Wagner: Schwieriges Pakistan. Außenpolitische Herausforderungen für die neue Regierung, SWP-Aktuell 30, Mai 2013
[2] Westerwelle sagt Pakistans Premier Sharif deutsche Hilfe zu; www.dw.de 08.06.2013
[3] Regierung will Hubschrauber nach Pakistan liefern; www.spiegel.de 28.04.2013
[4] Alexander Lurz: "The force behind the forces": Seit über 40 Jahren produzieren die Pakistan Ordnance Factories das G3; www.bits.de Juli 2007
[5] Beziehungen zu Pakistan vertiefen; www.auswaertiges-amt.de 05.09.2013
[6] Nawaz Sharif - die punjabische Sphinx, in: Wegweiser zur Geschichte: Pakistan. Im Auftrag des Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamtes herausgegeben von Bernhard Chiari und Conrad Schetter, Paderborn/München/Wien/Zürich 2010, 223 f
[7] Christian Wagner: Schwieriges Pakistan. Außenpolitische Herausforderungen für die neue Regierung, SWP-Aktuell 30, Mai 2013
[8] Westerwelle sagt Pakistans Premier Sharif deutsche Hilfe zu; www.dw.de 08.06.2013