Japan recognizes Pakistan’s serious efforts in the fight against terrorism. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who is holding talks with the country’s civilian and military leaders in Pakistan, told Dawn on Wednesday in an exclusive interview. He said that Japan is ready to work closely with Pakistan for stability and development in the region, and that Pakistan plays a prominent role in regional stability and is crucial to the stability and prosperity of the international community.
This is the first visit by the Japanese Foreign Minister to Katsuya Okada in 2009. What is the significance of your visit to Pakistan and how do you find Pakistan’s importance and role in terms of peace and security in this region?
Taro Kono: It gives me great pleasure to come to Pakistan, a longtime friend of Japan, which I selected as the first country in 2018. Japan and Pakistan celebrated the 65th anniversary of their diplomatic relations last year. This multi-faceted friendship, ranging from business to people-to-people exchanges and more, has great potential for further development. Both countries have supported each other in emergencies. In 2011, when the great earthquake in East Japan caused unprecedented damage, the Pakistani community in Japan rushed to the affected area, offering warm Pakistani food and maintaining the mood of those affected. In the case of the 2005 earthquake and the Pakistan flood in 2010, the Japanese remained close to the Pakistani people by sending disaster relief teams and providing relief supplies. In fact, our friendship is based on mutual respect and compassion. Pakistan, with its geopolitical importance, plays a prominent role in regional stability and is crucial to the stability and prosperity of the international community. Japan is ready to work closely with Pakistan for stability and development of the region. I therefore decided to visit Pakistan and consolidate our already excellent bilateral relations by sharing our views on regional and global issues, promoting cooperation in the areas of public security and counter-terrorism, and strengthening economic relations.
Since the government and military leaders made serious efforts to eradicate terrorism, the security situation in Pakistan has improved significantly. What does this mean for Japanese investment in Pakistan?
Taro Kano: Japan recognizes Pakistan’s serious efforts in the fight against terrorism. I offer my sincere condolences to the victims of terrorism in Pakistan. Terrorism can not be justified for any reason, and Japan is determined to condemn all acts of terrorism.
Japan has strongly supported the efforts of the Government of Pakistan and its people against terrorism. In this context, Japan has provided Pakistan with support such as the provision of security equipment for airports, projects in the tribal areas with Federal Administered Tribal (Fata) for border security, etc.
Japan will continue to work with Pakistan, with a focus on counter-terrorism cooperation.
I hope the improved security situation in this country will have a positive impact on the Japanese business.
Recently, a seminar on trade and investment opportunities in Pakistan was organized by the Pakistani Embassy in Japan. The seminar attracted many more businesspeople than the firm capacity for the venue of 100 people, which was an expression of the strong Japanese interest in doing business with Pakistan.
I look forward to seeing more of these seminars and business exchanges. I really hope to see deeper and stronger Japanese-Pakistani economic relations in the future.
Multilateral donors including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are forecasting GDP growth of 5.5 percent for Pakistan in 2018. Is Japan satisfied with Pakistan’s economic performance and what measures should Pakistan take to support and further improve the economy? Growth?
Taro Kano: Pakistan, with a population of more than 200 million, including a significant number of young people, has great potential. Rich English-educated human resources are also his strength.
In the meantime, Pakistan must continue to face challenges, including a stable energy supply and security improvements.
Japan strongly supports economic reform, security enhancement and export promotion, which is currently being carried out by the government under Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
This policy helps Pakistan address its challenges and develop its strength. My message for this visit is that Japan will continue to work with the Pakistani government and support its efforts.
Pakistan’s economy has shown an upward trend in recent years, with a projected GDP growth rate of over 5 percent in 2018.
I am pleased to hear that the number of Japanese companies, including those in cars and housewares, is planning to increase their investment in Pakistan. The Government of Japan will vigorously support its business activities in order to further strengthen our economic relations.
Export promotion through the promotion of competitive industries is essential to maintain Pakistan’s current economic growth. With the aim of promoting the Pakistani export industries, Japan is ready to cooperate in high-value-added production support measures.
It is said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative will be a game changer. What do you think about the prospects of CPEC? Since the initiative essentially involves infrastructure development, what role can Japanese companies play in this context?
Taro Kano: As a longtime friend of Pakistan, Japan supports and wants to contribute to the development of Pakistan. With regard to the CPEC, I believe that this should serve the stability and prosperity of the region.
In terms of infrastructure development, Japan is particularly promoting the development of quality infrastructure based on global standards such as openness and transparency, economic efficiency and financial viability of the beneficiary country. Japan wants to work with Pakistan to develop such an initiative.
For example, Japan has helped to improve the road network in Pakistan through various projects, including the development of the Indus Highway and the Kohat Tunnel. In addition, the construction of the Ghazi Barotha hydropower project and the strengthening of national transmission lines and network stations, which were supported by Japan, have achieved the increase in power capacity.
The Government of Japan, in cooperation with the Government of Pakistan, will continue to promote the development of high-quality infrastructure, which will revive Pakistan’s economic infrastructure and social foundations – leading to more Japanese companies investing in Pakistan.