Interview with Ambassador Gunter Mulack

"Europe and Germany Are Taking Substantial Interest in Pakistan"

German-Pakistani relations are complex. In this interview with Atilla Iftikhar, Germany's ambassador in Islamabad, Gunter Mulack, talks about developmental, economic, and political relations of the two countries

Dr. Gunter Mulack (photo: Germany's Federal Foreign Office)
Dr. Gunter Mulack, Germany's former Commissioner for Dialogue with the Islamic World, has been Germany's ambassador to Pakistan since August 2005

​​What is Europe doing to help stabilize the situation in Pakistan: politically, economically and socially?

Gunter Mulack: Europe and Germany are taking substantial interest in Pakistan – and South Asia as a whole. In Pakistan, the European Union (EU) has funded development projects with around 25 million euro over the past 6 years and given an additional 100 million euro for earthquake relief projects. A substantial increase in aid is projected for the next few years. The European Commission alone has for the years 2007 to 2013 a budget of almost 400 million euro. Approximately 2 billion euro in grants will be given to Pakistan in that period by the EU as a whole.

The bilateral German development work is focused on environmental issues as well as on education and women empowerment.

Economically, Germany as a Member State of the EU grants trade tariff advantages to developing countries like Pakistan under the EU's "Generalised System of Preferences" (GSP). Pakistani-German trade alone has been growing at more than 6% on average every year since 2000. But Germany remains interested in further intensifying trade, cooperation and dialogue with Pakistan.

In the cultural, educational and social area a number of initiatives are being pursued – the most important one is probably the setting up of a German technical university in Lahore. I am confident that it will start its work in 2008. Even now, a broad scientific exchange takes place every year between the two countries within the framework of a fruitful partnership between the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

German cultural institutions such as the Goethe Institute in Karachi or the Annemarie Schimmel House in Lahore have been operating successfully for considerable time. All this reflects the high emphasis Germany and its European partners are putting on our relations with Pakistan. And we are committed to further expanding them.

How do you rate the performance of German foundations Böll and Ebert in promoting the grass-roots involvement of Pakistani women in political decision-making (considering the fact that nearly all Pakistani women in political positions at federal level have an elitist background)?

Mulack: The Heinrich Böll and Friedrich Ebert Foundations are, in my view, doing an excellent job under difficult circumstances in their efforts to promote the grass-roots involvement of Pakistani women in political decision-making. Theirs is a grass-roots approach aimed at empowering women in their communities by offering training and networking opportunities. It is true that at this time, not many women from rural villages or from the working classes are in political positions at federal level. But I think the same can be said for men, so those statistics should not discourage us from pursuing women empowerment at grass-roots level.

If you keep in mind that also two other German political foundations, the Hanns Seidel and Friedrich Naumann Foundations are very successfully engaged in Pakistan, with different priorities from the two mentioned before, it seems fair to say that the work of those political foundations is an important cornerstone of our political support for Pakistan.

What is your opinion on the issue of judicial independence in countries such as Pakistan?

Mulack: The independence of the judiciary is a key element in a democratic state which respects the separation of powers. This is why the European Union clearly expressed its concerns in this regard in mid-March. I feel very encouraged, however, by the way lawyers and civil society have recently stood up peacefully for the independence of the judiciary. Coverage of those activities in the German media should have a positive effect on Pakistan's image there, because it shows that a vibrant civil society is making its voice heard on important political questions in this country.

How does Germany evaluate the performance of Musharraf since he came to power in 1999?

Mulack: Germany does not grade the performance of individual serving government leaders.

Are German-Afghan relations having any adverse effects on German-Pakistani relations in light of the allegations and counter-allegations regarding cross-border militancy between Kabul and Islamabad?

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri, left, and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Islamabad, 23 May (photo: AP)
German's foreign minister launched a two-day trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan to encourage increased cooperation between the two nations as part of a G-8 initiative

​​Mulack: Not at all. Why should that be the case? But we need to acknowledge that the two countries are neighbours and therefore share the problem of illegal border crossings by extremists. Therefore, frankly speaking, we do not find the exchange of allegations in this matter very helpful. We all depend on each other if we want stabilisation and development in the region.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier has therefore invited his Afghan and Pakistani colleagues for a joint meeting with the G8 Foreign Ministers on 30 May 2007 in Potsdam, close to Berlin, to sit down together and develop strategies to strengthen cooperation and dialogue between the two neighbouring countries – with strong G8 support. We feel this is absolutely essential.

Should the Kashmir conflict be resolved in accordance with existing UN resolutions, or do you think the UN has outplayed its role in this dispute?

Mulack: A peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict is of key importance for the development of the entire region. The relevant UN resolutions stand, but there is also a bilateral negotiation process going on, the composite dialogue. We welcome the momentum this process has regained after last summer. President Musharraf has presented interesting proposals. We strongly encourage both sides to continue a result-oriented dialogue on the Kashmir issue.

The majority of people in Pakistan agree that the American-led military-centric approach of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is not constructive to peace and stability, but what is Germany's perception?

Mulack: There are, unfortunately, some misperceptions concerning the NATO-led ISAF mission. Its mandate, given to it by the United Nations, is to provide the security that is a necessary prerequisite for reconstruction and development activities in Afghanistan. All critics need to understand: There is no development without security – and no security without development. The military engagement is thus one part of a comprehensive strategy that is being pursued to bring stabilisation, reconstruction and development to the people of Afghanistan.

Despite all progress made, however, in some parts of the country people do not yet see enough of the reconstruction and development they were promised, which causes frustration and sometimes militancy. Militancy, of course, is a serious obstacle to development. A carefully crafted approach combining diplomatic, military and developmental instruments is required to lead the way out of this dilemma. Everybody concerned recognizes that military means alone will not provide a solution.

Interview conducted by Atilla Iftikhar

© Qantara.de 2007

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