Pakistan is a nation surrounded by countries that have engaged in numerous wars over the years, including India, China, Iran, and Afghanistan, and despite having faced the danger of losing their country’s very existence, Pakistan has been protected by the resolute decisions made by the country’s leaders, including the decision to develop nuclear arms. Japan and Pakistan have very strong ties, as seen by the fact that diplomatic relations between the countries were established immediately following the return of Pakistan’s sovereignty in 1952. We spoke with Engr. Khan, who serves as Pakistan’s Minister of State for Commerce and Textile Industry, about the future of economic cooperation between Japan and Pakistan.
Motoya I am extremely happy to be visiting Pakistan, having received an informal invitation from Ambassador Farukh Amil. Pakistan is the 78th country I have visited.
Khan Welcome! We are very happy to have you here. That is amazing?the 78th country! I am impressed by your inventiveness and wonderful tactics as a corporate leader.
Motoya Last night I was invited to a reception and dinner party and had the honor of being seated at the main table with President Mamnoon Hussain.
Khan Yes, I made the arrangements so that you would be seated at the same table with the president.
Motoya Ah, so it was you who arranged that! Thank you. And I am also grateful to you for agreeing to participate in this special dialogue. The monthly magazine I publish, AppleTown, has a circulation of 63,000. It is placed in the more than 30,000 guest rooms of APA hotels throughout Japan, so each year roughly 7 million guests are reading it. We are also sending the magazine to almost all of the embassies in Japan, so many of the embassy-related people read our magazine. In the past, the AppleTown dialogue has featured the participation of former Cuban President Fidel Castro and former President of the Republic of China Lee Teng-hui.
Khan I am honored to be included in such company.
Motoya I founded the APA Group 42 years ago. To date, we have never once been in the red, and while we pay ¥100 billion in taxes, we have been able to become one of Japan’s foremost hotel groups without downsizing a single person. At the same time, in the belief that we need a correct understanding of history in order to make Japan a country that we can once again be proud of, I have been trying to enlighten people by publishing AppleTown, creating the “True Interpretation of Modern History” essay contest, and establishing a private seminar called Shoheijuku.
Khan I believe that is very meaningful work.
Motoya Pakistan shares borders not only with India, but with Afghanistan, Iran, and China as well, and my impression is that while building a deep relationship with the United States, the country is being skillfully managed. However, in Japan there is very little media reporting on Pakistan, and the Japanese people do not know much about this country. I was hoping that I might use this opportunity to have you tell us a bit about your country.
Khan Since diplomatic relations were established in 1952, Japan and Pakistan have always enjoyed good relations. However, while we have close diplomatic relations between our governments, there is still a long way to go at the nongovernmental level. I feel that we need much more active exchanges in such areas as business and culture.
Motoya For that purpose as well, we must know more about one another’s countries.
Khan The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was established in 1947 when areas in which Muslims represented the majority, such as Bengal and Punjab, established their independence from the United Kingdom along with India. But this place has a much longer history than that. From 2500 BC, at the time of the Indus civilization, there were two cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, that were at the height of their prosperity, and they were situated here on what is now Pakistan. They had highly advanced painting and craftsmanship, and they also had a writing system. At the site of these two cities, we have found similarly shaped tools and public buildings made with bricks of the same shape, and the cities also had public baths, roads, and waterways. We can infer that the people of the two cities enjoyed a shared and highly advanced civilization.
Motoya In Japanese schools, we learn about the Indus civilization. This was an area in which culture was flourishing even in those ancient times, wasn’t it.
Khan Yes. Later as well, the region was ruled by various dynasties, and the arts of the Gandhara Kingdom, which was at the height of its power from around the 1st to the 5th centuries AD, are particularly famous. Even today, these artworks, which represent a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures, including Indian, Roman, and other cultures, are held in high esteem. Subsequently, in the 8th century, Islam was introduced to the region and Islamic culture spread in South Asia as well.
Motoya This is the process through which modern-day Pakistan was built?
Khan Yes, Islam is now the state religion.
Motoya What is the current population of Pakistan?
Khan We have a population of 180 million. The area is about twice the size of Japan. Our capital is Islamabad. We use English as the official language, but Urdu is the spoken language of the country. In 1930, a department of Urdu language studies had already been established at the University of Tokyo, Takushoku University, and Osaka University, so Pakistan studies was being carried out in Japan.
Motoya So even before the last World War, there was a connection between Japan and Pakistan.
Khan That’s right. And Pakistan was the only South Asian participant in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Conference?which India did not attend?and it supported Japan’s position. Then the following year, as soon as Japan regained its sovereignty, the two countries established diplomatic relations and Japan quickly opened an embassy in Karachi.
Motoya That, I take it, was the start of close ties between the two countries.
Khan Correct. In 1960, President Muhammad Ayub Khan visited Japan, while Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda visited Pakistan the following year. They agreed to start of a yen loan system and a student exchange system. Subsequently, 80 Pakistani students were sent to study in Japan, based mainly at Chiba University and a number of other universities, where they studied the language and technology, bringing that knowledge back to our country. That technology brought major reforms to Pakistan’s industry. Also, the yen loans allowed Pakistan to buy Japan’s high-quality products, and Japan was able to use Pakistan as a foothold for entering the South Asian and Middle Eastern markets.
Motoya So the current bilateral relationship was formed based on that history.
Motoya What areas of industry are currently thriving?
Khan The main areas are agriculture and textiles. In recent years, our technological strength is also improving, so I would by all means like to have you take a look at those industries as well.
Motoya In Japan, doing business with Pakistan is still not a mainstream practice. Up until now, Japan has been making advances in China and has been investing a fair amount of money. However, as you know, China-Japan relations are quite cool at the moment due to the Senkaku Islands issue, and so Japan is currently looking for the next place to do business. Pakistan is of course one of the candidates.
Khan I am very happy to hear that. It gives me high hopes for the future.
Motoya APA Hotels have also been buying Chinese-made linens in the past, but we are considering a change. Part of the intent of this visit to Pakistan is to inspect linen suppliers. In addition, it seems there are good products in terms of towels and metal fittings as well.
Khan I hope you will take a good look. If the APA Hotels were to use our country’s linens, it would lead to a major enhancement of Pakistan’s image in Japan.
Motoya I will give it serious consideration.
Khan Pakistan held a general election this year, and Mr. Sharif was named prime minister. This is his third term in power. One thing this administration is promoting is the strengthening of ties to friendly nations. In particular, a major objective is to promote development in Pakistan by reinvigorating trade. By taking a more open stance than in the past, we in the government are working to build close ties to other nations.
Motoya It would be wonderful if you would by all means deepen your cooperation with Japan so that we can grow together.
Khan In the Ministry of Commerce and Textile Industry, which I oversee, we are comprehensively supporting businesses that are planning to expand into Pakistan. If you have any requests, please tell us. We will make the utmost effort to fulfill them.
Motoya That is very encouraging to hear! I believe that Pakistan’s development under the Sharif organization will be beneficial for Japan as well.
Khan Economically speaking, today’s Pakistan is facing conditions similar to those in Japan immediately after World War II. We still have a long way to go, but there is great potential for growth. In order to promote that growth, it would be wonderful if not only Pakistan but Japan and other countries would actively and energetically work to build relations. For example, I am thinking that perhaps our relationship with the APA Group could offer an opening for deeper economic cooperation at the private level between Japan and Pakistan.
Motoya That is right. Despite the fact that Pakistan is in a very difficult position politically and diplomatically, you are skillfully surviving. Relations are of course difficult with India, with which you have been engaged in wars a number of times, but they are also difficult with Iran and Afghanistan. And the United States as well, which sees Pakistan as the cornerstone of regional stability, nonchalantly carries out acts that violate the country’s sovereignty, such as assassinating bin Laden within Pakistani territory without permission. Meanwhile, under the nuclear umbrella, Japan has been comfortably indulging in peace. But in addition to Russia and China, North Korea has become a nuclear power, so the situation surrounding Japan has become increasingly tense as well. Situated between an expanding China and a retreating United States, what should Japan do in order to avoid creating a power vacuum? I think that nuclear weapons are needed for that reason. The emergence of a power vacuum will lead to war. I believe that Pakistan has a good understanding of the balance of power and is a country that has been able to eliminate that vacuum and maintain peace.
Khan Thank you. In 1998, during Prime Minister Sharif’s second term, it was decided to carry out nuclear tests in response to India’s underground nuclear tests, and so we declared that we are the world’s seventh nuclear power. He is a leader who can exert firm leadership and be decisive.
Motoya It was immediately after India’s nuclear tests, so that was remarkably decisive.
Khan I hope that you will visit Pakistan frequently in the future, not just as a businessman, of course, but as a representative who has a deep knowledge of state, diplomatic, and military matters as well. People such as you, Mr. Motoya, are essential in order to build our bilateral relationship strategically and with diversity.
Motoya Of course. As I mentioned before, Japan needs to escape from its overly close relationship with China and needs to diversify its risk. I believe there will be various responses to our publishing this dialogue in AppleTown with this timing.
Khan I will speak with Chairman Zubair of the Board of Investment. We can help you select partners within Pakistan as well and can introduce new ideas and products. Please feel free to consult with me on anything.
Motoya APA Hotels is the hotel chain with the largest number of rooms in Japan. We have one of Japan’s finest stand-alone hotels, the APA Hotel & Resort “Tokyo Bay Makuhari,” and are currently working on building 50 hotels in Tokyo. After that, there is a good possibility that we will expand overseas. I think it is worth considering the idea of building an APA Hotel in Pakistan too.
Khan I would definitely like to see that happen. I hope you will come again soon and see more of our country.
Motoya Thank you. Finally, I always ask my guests to offer a word to our young readers.
Khan Pakistan is a beautiful country, and it is a country with a rich culture that has evolved from the ancient Indus civilization. It would be nice to see an attempt led by young people to carry out exchanges between Japanese universities and Pakistani universities so that we can lift each other up. But most of all, I would like Japanese youths to come and visit Pakistan.
Motoya I agree. Thank you again for speaking with me today.
Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan
Minister of State for Commerce and Textile Industry, Islamic Republic of Pakistan