Sultan M Hali
Pakistan and Japan have been facing a sorry tale of affairs lately. Their relations are no longer strong compared to the Indo-Japanese growing ties at the moment. Diplomats at both ends are puzzled as for how to revive the past ties between the two nations. They are now interested in the relationship and often argue to stimulate the past momentum.They at both ends should know that they are captivated by the win-win ties of the past when both countries strongly needed each other. One was a supplier of raw cotton and jute, and the other as an industrialised nation to with supply technology and credit.The international environment was in their favour. Both were lucky to have the United States in their favour to promote economic ties and geostrategic cohesion during the divide of the Cold War. Perhaps it was the sin ofnone. Nowadays, the relations which thrived in the past, face turbulences and jolts. Who changed the policy? Are regional factors and bilateral interestsresponsible? Or is the coming of the new geostrategic balancedrove the two nations apart. How to improve ties between Pakistan and Japan now, is the biggest task in Pakistan’s Foreign Office and Japan’s Gaimusho. It is assumed that several reasons had changed this relationship by the beginning of the 1990s – once the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan in 1989. In the 1980s, it was Japan’s tactical and strategic move to assist Pakistan because the Soviet advancement in the warm-water sea via Afghan occupation could have jeopardised Japanese commercial interests in the Indian Ocean from where it used to import over 78percent of its oil requirements in 1978, just before the Soviet adventure in Afghanistan. Earlier, ties between Pakistan and Japan turned lukewarm in the 1970s for a number of bilateral issues of which the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 caused much trouble between them because several of Japanese actions for East Pakistan displeased it including Japan’s early recognition of Bangladesh. The impact of this crisis on Pakistan-Japan bilateral relations was crucial, and no Japanese or Pakistani leader paid a visit to each other countries in the 1970s. Japan also cut off aid to Pakistan and stopped providing new loans to it. History of relations between the two countries in the 1950s and 1960s was rather glorious. They were close partners in the development. Pakistan fully pleaded the case of a sovereign and industrialised Japan in all international fora and became the champion for the cause of the end of theAmerican occupation of Japan. Among Asian countries that had signed the San Francisco Treaty, Pakistan loomed largely, whileIndia and many Asian countries opposed the treaty and much later signed bilateral peace treaties with Japan. Pakistan was one of the countries that also waived-off reparations claims for Japanese aggression during wars. All Asian countries received compensations and reparations from Japan amounting to US$ 1.5 billion, which was a serious burden on a weak Japanese economy at that time.In 1952 and 1953, Pakistan donated rice (basmati kome) to Japan worth 60,000 tonnes to meet food shortage in Japan after the war. The donation of rice was gifted to His Majesty Showa Emperor Hirohito and the government and people of Japan. It was the first occasion after the war that a Japanese flag was raised on theforeign vessel – a Pakistan salute to Japanese nationalism during its isolation in world’s affairs.Perhaps most of theJapanese diplomats do not remember this event. They should consult the Imperial Place Office’s archives to find out this truth. The Imperial Office contains such information and photographs of this truth. There are Pakistan-Japan ties. Let’s try to dig out a missing page in our splendid history.Moreover, Pakistan offered a track of 5000 acres of farmland at the Ghulam Mohammad Barrage in Sindh to 4000 Japanese families of farmers who suffered from atomic razes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of war in 1945 to rehabilitate them in 1957.No other Asian country show such a kind gesture. Even Europe and America did not showsuch a kind empathy. Therefore, the vitality of Pakistan-Japan relationship was emotionally ingrained in the cultural realities and cannotbe sidestepped because of the modem developments and changes.Another revealing event is the first exchanges of the high-level visits. Prime Minister Hussain Shaheed Suharawardy was the first Asian head of Government who paid an official visit to Japan in 1957 after the war, paving the way for Prime Minister NobusakeKishi to visit Pakistan and other Asian countries next month. This made Japan’s return to Asia soured by wars. Is it an event that could be easily forgotten?India has its own role in relations with Japan. India is a hugeconsumer market for Japan. Today, Japan supplies India with nuclear technology and builds its bullet trains. There is a close geostrategic partnership between the two nations.This relationship, however, cannot be replaced by the diplomatic, political, and kind cultural gestures offered by Pakistani leadership to Japan in the past. Present Japanese leadership must realise the unique features of these bilateral tieson the basis of which diplomats can find out solutions to the on-going frozen political, strategic, and economic ties between Pakistan and Japan and bring it to new heights.

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