Lately in April 2022, Pakistan and United Kingdom (UK) celebrated seventy-Five years of their bilateral ties and vowed to further strengthen their relations. The establishment of relations dates back to the time when division of sub-continent took place into mainly Hindu India and a mainly Muslim Pakistan. Over the years bilateral relations have deepened not only in economic sphere but also in political and cultural realms. Pakistan highly values its relations with UK as they are based on historical linkages and convergent interests on a broad range of issues. In a recent meeting between prime minister of Pakistan Shehbaz sharif and UK’s Prime minister, Pakistani PM appreciated the work undertaken by the UK in promoting education, health and other social sectors in Pakistan. He also expressed his desire to work more closely with UK on deepening and broadening bilateral cooperation.
If we look into the trade relations both countries have then Pakistan hugely profits from a positive and mounting balance in its merchandise trade with the UK. The UK is Pakistan’s fourth largest market for exports. 85% of Pakistan’s exports to the UK consist of other made-up textile articles, articles of apparel, cotton and articles of leather. All these products presently relish duty-free access to the UK under the GSP+. The UK is also Pakistan’s 15th largest source of imports. The year 2021 was concluded with exports reaching $2.1billion. Major imports from the UK include iron and steel, machinery, electrical/electronic equipment, other made-up textile articles, and miscellaneous chemical products. During the tenure of PTI’s government in Pakistan, a focus has been to develop the tourism and housing industries. British investors and firms have ample experience in both sectors and could further branch out into the hospitality industry and green energy projects.
Not just trade relations, but Pakistan is also important for UK to extend its strategic interests in the Asian region and beyond. Strategic cooperation with Pakistan will also be helpful in furthering the UK’s interests in the Arabian Peninsula while being conducive towards stabilizing the regional security environment in the Persian Gulf. Both countries also share their thoughts on stability in Afghanistan and how it is important to sustain a steady environment in South Asian region. The Pakistani and British militaries enjoy longstanding relations and officers from both militaries continue to be a part of each other’s prestigious military institutions. The Pakistani armed forces have been increasingly looking for partners in the western hemisphere to embark upon a modernization programme that includes both off-the-shelf purchases but also support for developing their research and development infrastructure. British technological prowess could become critically important for such ventures. The humanitarian work of the British and Pakistan armies and their training relationship exemplify military soft power. The establishment of close ties between the two countries through joint training and defence diplomacy affirm their shared values and thus has the potential to encourage future cooperation to maintain those shared values.
Apart from military and economic relations, both countries also enjoy people to people connection as around 1.6 million Pakistan diaspora residing in the UK and they play the role of a bridge between the two countries. There is a dire need for strengthening cooperation in the field of legal migration to fully realize their potential. People to people connection will ultimately enhance already existing cultural relations between both the nations. For this purpose, youth can also play a very important role if properly facilitated. During march this year, British Council Chief Executive Officer, Scott McDonald launched a programme called “Pakistan-UK: New Perspectives” while marking the 75th anniversary of Pakistan. This program identifies the profound cultural ties between Pakistan and the UK while acting as a link between the emerging generation of artists and young leaders of both countries and reconnoitering contemporary cultural identities and artistic expressions. Programing comprises innovative intercessions which are more likely to address key global challenges such as climate change, women empowerment and inclusivity through the arts, culture, and education sectors. They will also act as a platform for both Pakistan and UK creative sectors, and inventiveness that our partners will apply in a wide variety of sectors. Pak-UK new Perspectives would encourage young talent and deepen cultural exchanges between the two countries. The United Kingdom has always been encouraging and extending its full cooperation to Pakistan in education and other fields with regard to youth. The British high commissioner to Pakistan said that the educated and skilled youth would play a very dynamic role in the economic development of Pakistan and strengthening Pakistan-UK relations.
The UK government is working on visa process, making it easier for the business community and people, which would enhance bilateral economic ties and people-to-people contacts. It is hoped that Pakistan-UK relations would be further strengthened and that Pakistan would play its major role for development and peace in the world.