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JAPAN-PAKISTAN

JAPAN-PAKISTAN RELATIONS The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union made Pakistan take greater notice of Japan and vice versa During the Cold War, Pakistan was concerned mostly with maintaining good relations with the United States and China The United States provided economic and military assistance, and China offered a good counterpoint to India The end of the Cold War also coincided with the emergence of Japan as the largest source of bilateral economic assistance to the developing worldAlthough Pakistan was anxious to move closer to Japan, the latter failed to assign a high priority to the country Japan was deeply troubled by a number of developments in Pakistan It viewed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program with great concern It was not pleased that Pakistan continued to commit a large proportion of its gross domestic product to maintaining and equipping a sizable military force It was unhappy with Pakistan’s neglect of social development These concerns were openly communicated to Pakistan in bilateral exchanges and in the pronouncements made by Japan in such multilateral institutions as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and in such forums as the Aid to Pakistan Consortium where, in the 1980s and 1990s, Japan’s influence continued to increase along with the increase in its development budget



A number of governments in Pakistan made serious attempts to improve economic relations with Japan General Zia ul-Haq visited Japan, as did Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto It was only with the visit of Benazir Bhutto in January 1996, however, that Japan began to show some understanding of Pakistan’s geopolitical situation While on this visit to the country, Prime Minister Bhutto spoke with great passion about the need for creating a nuclear-weapons-free region in South Asia Her approach resonated well with her hosts She reminded the Japanese that it was India that continued to resist these moves, it was India that was now preparing to test a nuclear weapon, and again, it was India that was spending a large sum of money on developing ballistic missilesThese arguments paid off, and Benazir Bhutto returned from Japan with an assurance from Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto that “Japan will work closely with Pakistan in expanding and promoting bilateral relationship in the ever deepening interdependence in the international community” During her visit, Japan and Pakistan signed a number of agreements for Japanese support of projects in Pakistan Japan agreed to contribute US$764 million for the construction of four important projects, including the Ghazi-Barotha hydropower project, a 13-kilometer elevated light-rail-transit system in Lahore, the national drainage project, and the Balochistan portion of the World Bank-sponsored Social Action Program (SAP) The amount pledged by Japan was 50 percent more than the previously indicated amount of US$500 million Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto also succeeded in persuading the business community in Japan that Pakistan had about the most liberal laws for foreign investment in South Asia

Once again, she managed to elicit a positive response, although she was reminded that the continuing troubles in Karachi, weak human development, especially a poor educational system, and a dysfunctional legal system were some of the major obstacles in the way of increased direct foreign investment in PakistanBhutto’s dismissal on 5 November 1996 did not sit well with the Japanese authorities It demonstrated once again the weakness of Pakistan’s democratic institutions By canceling some highly visible development projects for which Benazir Bhutto had received Japanese funding during her visit to Tokyo, the caretaker administration led by Prime Minister Meraj Khalid added further to Pakistan’s strained relations with Japan The projects canceled by the caretaker administration included the Lahore elevated railway In January 1996, Shahid Javed Burki, the adviser to Meraj Khalid and the caretaker’s de facto finance minister, visited Tokyo to detail the caretaker’s program for economic restructuring and to explain the decision to cancel some of the projects supported by Japan He also sought the government’s support for the launch of a “yen bond” in the Japanese financial market He was listened to patiently but received a cold reception Then, in early 1998, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif signaled to the Japanese authorities that he was prepared to implement the entire program of assistance that Tokyo had negotiated with Benazir Bhutto However, after Pakistan exploded six nuclear devices in May 1998, Japan joined the Western nations and imposed economic sanctions on the countryThese sanctions remained in place even after similar sanctions imposed by the American government were lifted following 9/11 and the promise by General Pervez Musharraf to provide assistance to the U

S war on terrorism It was only in January 2005 that the Japanese restored foreign aid to Pakistan The announcement came following the visit to Islamabad by Shoichi Nakagawa, Japan’s minister for economy, trade, and commerce The minister met with President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on 8 January Japan agreed to provide US$500 million of annual assistance under the Yen Loan Package Program and Official Development Assistance Programs starting in March 2005 When asked by the press whether his government was concerned by President Musharraf’s decision not to retire from the military, the minister said that “our government is assessing the situation in Pakistan as a whole, and not in individual instances Japan appreciates Pakistan’s commitment to peace, the war on terror, and domestic economic reforms, in addition to the improvement in the quality of life of its people”

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