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Pak-Japan relations -new avenues

Syed Ali Nawaz Gilani Japan was among the first nations to recognize Pakistan’s sovereignty, doing so three days after the latter’s independence on 14 August 1947. Although diplomatic relations between the two were officially established on 28th April 1952 following the end of the Allied occupation of Japan. Pakistan and Japan formally established diplomatic relations on 28th April 1952. Since then, Pakistan & Japan have been enduring to strengthen these ties further. That’s why with the passage of over 70 years of this long journey, both prove to be good friends even today. The year 2022 was the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Pakistan. Many programs were held in Japan and Pakistan to celebrate the event in a befitting manner. Our bilateral relations have been quite friendly. In fact, our relations are characterized by a shared sense of history and common perceptions on important issues. Both countries enjoy fraternal ties based on mutual trust, cooperation, people-to-people contacts as well as cultural and civilizational linkages. During the tenure of Ambassador Imtiaz Ahmad who has served in our Mission in Japan for more than sixteen years in different positions and speaks fluent Japanese, mentioned that despite limited bilateral interactions in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the relations between Pakistan and Japan have gained enhanced momentum. The mainstay of our relationship has been trade and economic, with Japan being a key development partner and a major investor in Pakistan. Japan has played important role in socio-economic development of Pakistan. Both friendly countries need to further deepen their engagement in the fields of economy, culture, tourism and people-to-people exchanges. Pakistan opened its Embassy in Tokyo and Mr. MianZiauddin became the first Ambassador of Pakistan to Japan. Similarly, Japan opened one of its earliest trade offices in Karachi. In the early 50’s Pakistan was a major import destination for raw cotton for Japan. During the Korean War and in the Cold War, Pakistan and Japan found themselves on the same side of the divide. President Ayub Khan visited Japan in 1960. That was followed by Prime Minister Ike’s visit to Pakistan in 1961. In 80’s bilateral relations were further bolstered due to Pakistan’s role in securing the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan and the sea lanes security through which Japan receives bulk of its oil. Pak-Japan bilateral relations saw a difficult phase following the nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan in 1998, the engagement at the political level continued. Japan has always given the prime focus on social development by mainly working in areas of health, agriculture, water supply and disaster management. However, a new era in diplomatic ties between Islamabad and Tokyo. Presently, a total of 20000 Pakistanis are living in Japan, while every year a large number of tourists come to see Buddha sites in Pakistan. Apart from that, Japan is one of its largest trading partners of Pakistan with an annual trade of $1.5 billion annually and efforts are underway to improve it further. To expand the fruit industry, options relating to processed fruits and better packaging can be explored and Pakistan in cooperation with Japan can open up factories.  Tokyo has so far funded different projects in Pakistan which include the Indus Highway, Thermal Power Station Jamshoro, Bin Qasim Thermal Power Station and Kohat Tunnel. In addition, ‘Gravity Flow Water Supply Scheme’ in Haripur city is built with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) assistance. The project is based on cost-effective water supply arrangements and it will provide drinking water to the residents of Haripur city. The most significant is to provide an opportunity to Japanese investors to invest in different sectors in Pakistan, which will help Pakistan to minimize unemployment and improve the economy by initiating economic activities in the country. Japan is a major trading partner as well as a donor to Pakistan. Japan has been a member of the Aid to Pakistan Consortium since 1961 and has been regularly assisting Pakistan with its development programs by providing financial support. Standing as the third largest economy of the world, Japan has a nominal GDP of over five trillion Dollars, while that of Pakistan’s nearly 350 billion and fast growing. Currently, there are over 85 Japanese Companies now operating in Pakistan providing employment to over ten thousand and helping the government exchequer annually with over Rs 60 billion in taxes. In the industrial sector, Japan leads the automotive sector with almost all known Japanese brands with their presence; the first amongst them to start in 1980. To protect such investment and to further promote it, an agreement was signed between the two governments in 2002. Japan over the period, through JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and its ODA (Official Development Assistance ) launched technical assistance programs in Pakistan with sole purpose to put Pakistan on right track of progress and development. These two unique initiatives have helped Pakistan’ economic development. Japan acknowledged Pakistan’s role in war against terrorism, In addition, Japan helped Pakistan financially to develop the infrastructure damaged by the devastated earthquake in 2005 and floods in Pakistan. In 2020, to protect Pakistanis from Corona-19 epidemic, the government of Japan had released Rs 1.54 billion. As per the Japanese embassy in Islamabad, this huge amount was given to purchase medical equipments, especially ventilators and oxygen cylinders and the then Japanese Ambassador had praised Pakistan for taking the best kind of steps to deal with deadly Corona. Japan has won the hearts of Pakistanis again when it recently announced financial aid of $38.9million to Pakistan for providing life-saving assistance to the flood victims, as the July 2022 flood created a multi-faceted humanitarian crisis. Japan has recently announce additional amout for earhquake victims. Pakistan & Japan economic relations started back in the 60s when then GandharaNissian and Atlas Honda were established and various leading Japanese brands become household names and known to the masses. Everyone here knows very well about the famous Japanese brands and their products that are even being preferred over any European or Asian brands. The famous –Toyota, Suzuki,  Yamaha, Nissian and Honda ,Hitachi,  Toshiba, National and others a long list are still popular in Pakistan and these brands established their credibility over the period of time. Japan and Pakistan signed two Memoranda of Cooperation on Technical Training Programme on Technical Intern Training Programme and Specified Skilled Workers in 2019. It will provide the opportunity for Pakistani workers to find jobs in Japan. A few years back at a dialogue held at the Pakistan National Language Authority (NLA), they praised the services of Osaka and Tokyo universities, which have been teaching Urdu for 105 years and have a separate department for the language that is widely spoken in the subcontinent. The Urdu Services from Japan official broadcasting House NHK successfully broadcasted Urdu Services first in 1924 and later in the 50s,. Japan is among the largest importer of textile products and mangoes from Pakistan. President DrArifAlvi has recently expressed his desire to improve diplomatic ties further between Islamabad and Tokyo especially focusing on economic, trade, and human resource development initiatives. Moreover, the President appreciated the continuous support of Japan to Pakistan on the FATF platform and Pakistan is grateful to Japan for the decision to suspend the payment of debts. Sincere efforts must be taken to enhance trade between Pakistan and Japan in near future. Furthermore, Islamabad must increase cooperation with Japan in field of digital technology and IT as advancement and expertise in artificial intelligence need of the hour. It is hoped that the leadership of both sides will pay special attention to further promote trade, exchange of cultural and journalists groups, which will help to develop people to people contacts between the two states. Pakistan-Japan Business Forum (PJBF) is a bilateral forum established in 2001 with a view to promoting trade and investments between the two friendly countries. PJBF is playing vital role in this connection. There is great need to further strengthen the Pak-Japan Relations especially from economic point of view as presently around the world countries and nations are activity working for mutual beneficial economic relations and encouraging sociao economic developmental activities by all available resources. .(email: syeed.gilani@gmail.com)

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