This chapter looks at the fragilities of Pakistan and examine the scope and content of the EU’s relationship with Pakistan, a country which remains on the periphery of the EU’s Asia policy and which is only climbing slowly up the EU’s foreign policy agenda because of the strong link with security in Afghanistan, connections between tribal areas in Pakistan and Europe’s ‘home grown’ terrorists and strong US and British insistence that the EU should help stabilise the country. The EU’s hitherto lack of focus on Pakistan is not surprising: China looms largest on the EU’s Asia policies, with India coming second. The relationship with Pakistan has been dominated by trade relations. Volatile politics in the country have meant the EU has had to constantly adjust and re-adjust its approaches depending on whether the army or civilians are in power. The adoption by the EU foreign ministers of a so-called five-year engagement plan aimed at boosting civilian institutions and civil society in Pakistan as well as a commitment to start a strategic dialogue with the country are illustrations of stronger EU interest in Pakistan (Kuwait News Agency, 2012). Recent statements on Pakistan by the EU foreign ministers underline efforts to build a strong long-term EU-Pakistan partnership and indicate full European support for democracy in the country. Translating the words into real policies remains an uphill struggle for both sides, however. The absence of an EU role in providing military support means that it can only exert limited influence. However, the EU has not been able to leverage its soft power to facilitate reform and change in Pakistan. In addition, strong economic ties — the EU is Pakistan’s largest trading partner — have not translated into significant political influence. As a result, the EU continues to punch below its weight in Pakistan, remaining a marginal political player in the country with little leverage vis-à-vis Pakistan’s civilian leadership or the powerful military and security establishment. The EU does not have America’s clout in Pakistan. However, Europeans are seeking to work as significant ‘niche players’ by helping to strengthen the role of Pakistan’s increasingly dynamic civil society groups. The emphasis is also on supporting the strengthening of democratic institutions and the electoral framework, with particular focus on institution building, legislative reform and voter participation.
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© 2013 Shada Islam
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Islam, S. (2013). EU-Pakistan Relations: The Challenge of Dealing with a Fragile State. In: Christiansen, T., Kirchner, E., Murray, P. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of EU-Asia Relations. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230378704_38
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