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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: The Express Tribune

Pakistan Reader# 619, 4 July 2023

Reviving ties: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visits Japan



This symbiotic relationship is beneficial to both, but for one more than the other.

Femy Francis

On 1 July, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Foreign Minister of Pakistan arrived in Japan for a four-day visit aiming to renew diplomatic ties and economic collaboration with the country. Bhutto is the first foreign minister from Pakistan in four years to visit Japan where he engaged with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshima and several political and business executives. With the culmination of his visit Bhutto said: “We have agreed to further deepen and exchange our mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in areas of trade, investment, human resource development, information technology, tourism, and agriculture.”

Bilateral relationship between the two countries goes back to 1952, since then Japan has been a vital investor for Pakistan’s infrastructural development and boosting Pakistan’s textile and electronics sector. In 2022, Japanese government announced USD 38.9 million assistance to Pakistan as part of their life-saving aid to the country. Additionally, the Japanese government provided USD 7 million emergency aid for Pakistan’s flood recovery initiative “Build Back Pakistan.”. On 22 June 2023, Japan announced grant for Pakistan of USD 2.5 million under Human Resource Development Scholarship program as part of their Sixth initiative. From the recent visit Japan further strengthened its support to provide aid for the victims of ravenous floods where Bhutto stated: “We have also jointly agreed to explore the possibility of working together on targeted programs with higher impact in the domains of solarisation, desalination and water purification and housing and infrastructure rebuilding in the floods affected areas in Pakistan.”

Japan’s ageing demographic and opening migration policy  
The year 2023 saw the highest number of Pakistani’s migrating to Japan ever, recorded with 5000 arriving for employment, business purpose and education. Japan’s ageing demography has led to increasingly shrinking labor force which is further threatened by declining birth rate in the country. This has led to the country loosing up their migration law to provide for labor shortage. Additionally, under “Specified skilled workers” Japan welcomes foreign national as resident for five years. Recently, it also has passed new visa legislation where they provide special provision for highly skilled to be provided with citizenship. Japan can become an attractive destination for Pakistani’s to migrate to with the easing up of regulations.
 
Maintaining strategic balance
Mutually beneficial bilateral relations between Pakistan and Japan. As China, expands its influence in the world, Pakistan also looks to expand and diversify its confederation with other countries aiming to maintain strategic balance and Chinese dependency. Establishing relationship with Japan provides a better leverage for Pakistan when negotiating. For Japan, this provides an opportunity to regulate the ever-expanding Chinese influence. As, Japan has expressed disdain towards China’s aggressive involvement, it aspires to subside it’s influence in the region which it finds threatening. Additionally, Japan can level up its regional influence, by acting as broker of peace by addressing regional security issues and push for regional stability.
 
The success of the visit depends on how well it does with time and if it is able to keep up with the momentum. With the changing Asian geopolitical arena, it becomes vital for countries to evolve and forge beneficial ties. Japan and Pakistan relationship can lead to major changes in the regional politics if it is able to further build on their commitments.  This symbiotic relationship is beneficial to both, but for one more than the other.
 

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