By Irfan Shahzad Takalvi
As the year coming to close is also marking the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Germany, I feel it as my duty to express my personal gratitude to Germany.
This gratitude has a personal touch, because I am a direct beneficiary of German Development Cooperation with Pakistan. A decade and a half ago, back in early to mid 2007, I was among a group of young Asian and African journalists selected for and successfully completing a professional training course in Berlin. This wonderful period of less than three months’ stay in the German capital has been, and would always remain, an unforgettable part of my life.
The training was on ‘Economic and Financial Reporting.’ Although my career in the years that followed was oriented more towards policy and academic research, it was this very course that broadened my horizons and prepared me for contributions in my chosen filed. The fact that tutors came from world’s renowned institutions and news outlets made it once-in-a-lifetime learning and grooming opportunity.
While the resident course was for a short period of less than three months, a continuation of it was online six month course on ‘Financial Journalism’, and it also involved a trip to New York as well as a short course at prestigious Columbia University – moreover, above all, close interaction with world famous Nobel laureate Joseph Stieglitz. Of course many other Pakistani and international young journalists / media contributors have benefitted from this opportunity that the Germany offered to them, but I consider it particularly a life-transforming gift for me.
Among many other explorations, visits to the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt and the headquarters of Transparency International would always stand as noted accomplishments of my professional career so far. For months and perhaps years after my return, I have been imagining myself taking a stroll in the Tier Garten, driving along the mighty Rhine or just snapping a click from atop Reichstag’s glass dome. And yes, who can forget that Germany has a Lor-e Lei of its own – just as Pakistan has one in Balochistan.
It indeed was educative to come across hardworking, dedicated, professional Germans. However, in terms of people-to-people interactions the greats lesson to learn for respect for diversity. Many of my long-standing friendships with people of Middle Eastern, Central Asian and East Asian origin were initiated in Germany. The Deutschland was my first window to Africa as well. And it all was not without a big regret, too. I failed to learn German. That entirely was my failure.
In nutshell, the opportunity that Germany provided me in very initial years of my career as a media contributor and policy researcher provided me with much needed base, and transformed my personal landscape for better, in a big way.
While writing this piece, I have just had a look at some of the latest figures and data. Pak-German trade has been around $ 2.5 to $ 3 billion per annum in recent years, which makes Germany one of the largest trading partners for Pakistan. A more important dimension to note is that remittances of overseas Pakistanis living and working in Germany have increased significantly in Past two to three years, having crossed $400 million mark in the fiscal year 2020-21.
Recent developments indicate that Germany remains one of the most prominent development partners for Pakistan. Be it technical cooperation or assistance for health and education – particularly that of girls and women – Germany is visible among top players. Good to see that Climate Change and its wide-ranging impacts are becoming an important area of cooperation between the two sides. Being attached with policy research and academics, I must mention constructive contribution that German political foundations are rendering for academic discourses and raising awareness on critical issues confronting Pakistan, internally and externally.
Some events have been held to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Pak-German ties, but I do feel that the occasion did not get the attention it deserved. Part of it may be attributed to COVID-19 restrictions. Particularly on the Pakistani side, this one of the most important international partnerships for my country – must have been highlighted rather more.
German envoys including the current one are seemingly and reportedly quite active n Islamabad. I tried to arrange a talk with German ambassador on the 70th anniversary from the platform of my new institution but it somehow did not get through, perhaps due to weaknesses on communication on my side. Let us hope that Pak-German ties grow from strength to strength, for a win-win outcome, for the two states and the two people.
The author is CEO of Policy Pak and founder of the Eurasian Century Institute (ECI), Islamabad. He may be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org