Relations between Pakistan and the GDR until 1973

A blended image of the national flags of Pakistan and the GDR

Table of Con­tents: Ear­ly Con­ta­cts | The Path to Reco­gni­ti­on | After Reco­gni­ti­on | Sources | End­no­tes

This is a trans­la­ted ver­si­on of the 2019 MIDA Archi­val Refle­xi­con ent­ry “Die Bezie­hun­gen zwi­schen Paki­stan und der DDR bis 1973”. The text was trans­la­ted by Rekha Rajan.

While the rela­ti­ons of the two Ger­man sta­tes with India have alrea­dy been the sub­ject of several publi­ca­ti­ons, their enga­ge­ment with the second-lar­gest nati­on of the sub­con­ti­nent has been com­ple­te­ly igno­red by his­to­ri­ans so far. Until it offi­cial­ly reco­gnis­ed the Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic (GDR) on 8 Octo­ber 1972, India, as one of the most important non-ali­gned nati­ons, was inde­ed one of the main addres­sees of the Federal Repu­blic of Germany’s (FRG) Hall­stein-Doc­tri­ne, and could always be assu­red of equal atten­ti­on from both the inter­na­tio­nal­ly com­pe­ting Ger­man states.

This app­lied to a les­ser extent to Paki­stan, which was poli­ti­cal­ly and eco­no­mi­c­al­ly not so signi­fi­cant inter­na­tio­nal­ly, espe­cial­ly sin­ce as India’s arch-enemy, it had com­mit­ted its­elf ear­ly on and une­qui­vo­cal­ly to the US-led alli­an­ce sys­tem by beco­m­ing a mem­ber of the inter­na­tio­nal defence alli­an­ces CENTO and SEATO. For the GDR, Paki­stan must have appeared to be a “lost cau­se” to some extent, whe­re it was hard­ly worthwhile to fight for reco­gni­ti­on. In its dealings with India, and later with Ban­gla­desh, which had beco­me inde­pen­dent from Paki­stan, the GDR tried to win sup­port with this fact. Only a week befo­re Paki­stan also reco­gnis­ed the GDR, on 15 Novem­ber 1972, the then exter­nal affairs minis­ter of the GDR, Otto Win­zer, rei­tera­ted in a con­ver­sa­ti­on with his coun­ter­part from Ban­gla­desh, Abdus Samad Azad, that Pakistan’s attempts to estab­lish con­ta­cts with the GDR had always been rejec­ted. Howe­ver, con­ta­cts with Paki­stan went back much fur­ther than the chief diplo­mat of the GDR was wil­ling to admit at the time, and the GDR had cer­tain­ly play­ed an acti­ve role in this.

Early Contacts

Paki­stan had alrea­dy shown inte­rest in bila­te­ral tra­de with the GDR in the mid-1950s. Howe­ver, on the “Ger­man ques­ti­on”, which was decisi­ve for the GDR, Paki­stan, in kee­ping with its Wes­tern alli­an­ce pact, clear­ly sup­por­ted the stand­point of the FRG much to the reg­ret of the East Ber­lin Minis­try for Exter­nal Affairs (MfAA). Howe­ver, when the Indo-Chi­na bor­der con­flict of 1962 led to Pakistan’s pro­xi­mi­ty with the Peo­p­les’ Repu­blic of Chi­na, the MfAA saw this as a gene­ral cour­se cor­rec­tion of the Paki­sta­ni government towards the socia­list alli­an­ce sys­tem. Alt­hough they were awa­re of the per­sis­ting dif­fe­ren­ces bet­ween the GDR and Paki­stan (like the Soviet Uni­on, the GDR sup­por­ted India on the Kash­mir ques­ti­on), the diplo­mats in East Ber­lin felt that a win­dow had ope­ned up for streng­t­he­ning rela­ti­ons with Paki­stan, if not also for estab­li­shing diplo­ma­tic relations.

The MfAA moved into action. In the sum­mer of 1963, a first GDR tra­de dele­ga­ti­on visi­ted Paki­stan, albeit unof­fi­cial­ly, en rou­te to India and offe­red Paki­stan a tra­de agree­ment simi­lar to the one that they had with India. In the same year, a dele­ga­ti­on of the GDR Minis­try for For­eign and Intra-Ger­man Tra­de (MAI) visi­ted Paki­stan to explo­re the pos­si­bi­li­ties for initia­ting bila­te­ral rela­ti­ons bet­ween the two coun­tries. Howe­ver, the MfAA stron­gly recom­men­ded that the dele­ga­ti­on pro­ceed with dis­cre­ti­on: “The dele­ga­ti­on must endea­vour to avoid publi­ci­zing its stay and nego­tia­ti­ons in the Paki­sta­ni press in order to pre­vent any pos­si­ble inter­ven­ti­on by West Ger­ma­ny in the pro­cess of nego­tia­ti­ons. Press con­fe­ren­ces and inter­views are to be refrai­ned from.” The GDR was also very con­scious of its own con­flict of inte­rest with Paki­stan: “The dele­ga­ti­on must avoid com­men­ting on the Kash­mir ques­ti­on, even if it is direct­ly asked to do so by the Paki­sta­ni side.”[1] Howe­ver, all the­se efforts by the GDR to enga­ge with Paki­stan through offi­cial chan­nels, soon came to nothing.

From the mid-1960s things appeared to start moving, at least at the level of civil socie­ty. In Febru­a­ry 1968, a book exhi­bi­ti­on on the GDR was orga­nis­ed in Kara­chi and an office of the Leip­zig Tra­de Fair, hea­ded by a Paki­sta­ni, was ope­ned. In addi­ti­on, from 1969 onwards, a num­ber of inde­pen­dent Paki­stan-GDR Friendship Socie­ties were foun­ded without the acti­ve invol­ve­ment of the GDR. The­se socie­ties, howe­ver, could not always be con­trol­led by the GDR as desi­red, which occa­sio­nal­ly led to con­si­derable fric­tion. In the spring of 1970, for examp­le, Paki­sta­ni stu­dents set up a Paki­stan-GDR Friendship Socie­ty on their own initia­ti­ve, and its repre­sen­ta­ti­ves com­p­lai­ned bit­ter­ly about the lack of sup­port and unwan­ted inst­ruc­tions from East Ber­lin: “I want to make you very clear that we do not, don’t want and will never take any inst­ruc­tion from you. We are edu­ca­ted enough to pre­pa­re our plans inde­pendent­ly.”[2] Howe­ver, the efforts of the­se self- con­fi­dent Friendship Socie­ties did not bear fruit.

In May 1970, the GDR once again told the government of Paki­stan that it was wil­ling to estab­lish offi­cial sta­te rela­ti­ons and, towards this end, pro­po­sed the fina­li­sa­ti­on of a bila­te­ral tra­de and pay­ments agree­ment as well as the set­ting up of sta­te-run tra­de mis­si­ons. The timing was well cho­sen: The GDR mis­si­ons in India were con­ver­ted into gene­ral con­su­la­tes in the sum­mer of 1970. Soon after, the West Ger­man ambassa­dor in Delhi was quo­ted in the press say­ing that the FRG government would not only not impo­se sanc­tions becau­se of this step, but in fact it would incre­a­se the deve­lo­p­ment aid to India. The­reu­pon, the Paki­sta­ni government also began to test the Hall­stein- Doc­tri­ne and at the very least indi­ca­ted to the West Ger­man government that it wan­ted to for­ma­li­se rela­ti­ons with East Berlin.

Des­pi­te the gene­ral­ly sym­pa­the­tic atti­tu­de of the government of Paki­stan towards the FRG, it now beca­me appa­rent that the For­eign Office (Aus­wär­ti­ges Amt) was rea­dy for a deter­mi­ned effort to safe­guard its own inter-Ger­man poli­ti­cal inte­rests in Paki­stan. When the then West Ger­man ambassa­dor in Islam­abad, Nor­bert Ber­ger, found out from the local press at the end of Janu­a­ry 1971 that an offi­cial atlas of the GDR show­ed the dis­pu­ted regi­on of Kash­mir as part of India, he reques­ted the AA head­quar­ters in Bonn to send him a copy of the map so that he could sub­mit it to the Paki­sta­ni For­eign Minis­try. As an unam­bi­guous explana­ti­on he added: “This map could perhaps influ­ence the plans of the For­eign Minis­try here to grant per­mis­si­on for a GDR tra­de mis­si­on.”[3]

The GDR’s respon­se in the con­flict over East Paki­stan, later Ban­gla­desh, which erup­ted at the end of March 1971, in which it quick­ly and une­qui­vo­cal­ly took a stand in favour of the Indian-backed sepa­ra­tists, did litt­le to arou­se Paki­sta­ni sym­pa­thies. After the end of the Indo-Pak War in Decem­ber 1971 and the GDR’s offi­cial reco­gni­ti­on of Ban­gla­desh in Janu­a­ry 1972, the plans to estab­lish diplo­ma­tic ties bet­ween the GDR and Paki­stan were put on hold for the time being.

The Path to Recognition

This only chan­ged with India’s diplo­ma­tic reco­gni­ti­on of the GDR on 8 Octo­ber 1972. A good one week later, the Paki­sta­ni ambassa­dor in Bonn visi­ted the AA to enqui­re about the impli­ca­ti­ons of this step by India on inter-Ger­man affairs. The infor­ma­ti­on he recei­ved appears to have reas­su­red him. On 21 Octo­ber 1972, a repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the Paki­stan for­eign office infor­med the West Ger­man ambassa­dor Ber­ger that Paki­stan would also “in the near future estab­lish diplo­ma­tic ties with the GDR.” Paki­stan could no lon­ger wait “to keep pace with deve­lo­p­ments.”[4]

The FRG government reac­ted prompt­ly and indi­gnant­ly. On the same day, it direc­ted its repre­sen­ta­ti­ve in Islam­abad to con­vey to the government of Paki­stan that this announ­ce­ment, com­ing only a day after the signing of two important capi­tal and debt-rest­ruc­tu­ring agree­ments, had “led to con­si­derable irri­ta­ti­on” in Bonn. For its part, the FRG government had at least con­sul­ted the Paki­stan government and given rea­sons for its decisi­on to grant reco­gni­ti­on to Ban­gla­desh in Febru­a­ry 1972, a step which was unde­s­i­ra­ble from Pakistan’s point of view. One would, the­re­fo­re, expect Paki­stan to at least do the same. Other­wi­se, the FRG government “could not rule out the pos­si­bi­li­ty of a shadow fal­ling on the future natu­re of Ger­man-Paki­stan rela­ti­ons that had hither­to been clo­se and friend­ly.”[5] On the fol­lowing day this thre­at was backed up by the inst­ruc­tion to con­vey this mes­sa­ge to the Paki­sta­ni government befo­re the pro­to­cols to the agree­ments were signed. It was signed in the expec­ta­ti­on that the Paki­stan government would “refrain from the announ­ced step vis-à-vis the GDR until the nego­tia­ti­ons of the basic trea­ty in the mat­ter have been con­clu­ded.”[6]

Bonn’s efforts were effec­ti­ve. Ambassa­dor Ber­ger was pla­ca­tin­g­ly told that “the expres­si­on ‘in the near future’ did not mean that reco­gni­ti­on would hap­pen ‘the day after tomor­row’”.[7] It was announ­ced that the ear­liest date for reco­gni­ti­on of the GDR was now 15 Novem­ber 1972. Paki­stan had inde­ed wai­ted until the basic trea­ty had been initialled.

After Recognition

On 24 Janu­a­ry 1973, the Embas­sy of the GDR in Paki­stan began its acti­vi­ties with the arri­val of the char­gé d’af­fai­res. Wal­ter Schmidt was the first repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the GDR in Paki­stan[8] who was suc­cee­ded at the end of April 1973 by the first regu­lar ambassa­dor, Hans Maretz­ki. On 6 April 1973, Paki­stan ope­ned its embas­sy in the GDR. In mid-May 1973, the government of Paki­stan appoin­ted Jam­s­hed K.A. Mar­ker, its for­mer ambassa­dor in Otta­wa, as its first ambassa­dor in East Ber­lin. The appoint­ment of this dis­tin­guis­hed diplo­mat, who had ear­lier been Pakistan’s ambassa­dor to the USSR, was gene­ral­ly seen by the MfAA to be a posi­ti­ve sign of the high regard in which Paki­stan held the GDR.

In Bonn, the reco­gni­ti­on of the GDR was not accep­ted without objec­tions, des­pi­te Pakistan’s con­ces­si­on. The FRG did not allow this mat­ter to pre­vent the signing of an agree­ment on sci­en­ti­fic and tech­no­lo­gi­cal coope­ra­ti­on with Paki­stan on 30 Novem­ber 1972. Howe­ver, the plan­ned trip of Sta­te Secreta­ry Paul Frank to Paki­stan for inter-govern­men­tal con­sul­ta­ti­ons was post­po­ned inde­fi­ni­te­ly. The AA head­quar­ters in Bonn also deci­ded that for the time being it would not grant Pakistan’s wish for a lif­ting of the arms embar­go on the sub­con­ti­nent that was impo­sed after the last Indo-Pak con­flict. In India, on the other hand, the estab­lish­ment of diplo­ma­tic rela­ti­ons bet­ween the GDR and Paki­stan did not evo­ke any media respon­se, con­tra­ry to the fears in East Berlin.

The first note­wor­thy action of the GDR in Paki­stan was the foun­ding of a Paki­stan-GDR Friendship Socie­ty in Pes­ha­war, near the Afghan bor­der at the end of June 1973. Accord­ing to the assess­ment of the FRG embas­sy, the main pur­po­se of this socie­ty was to sup­port the insur­gent Pash­t­uns in this noto­rious­ly ungo­vernab­le part of the coun­try on behalf of the Soviet Uni­on – a coun­try that Paki­stan regar­ded with sus­pi­ci­on. Apart from this Friendship Socie­ty and the pre­vious­ly men­tio­ned smal­ler groups, howe­ver, the­re was still no cen­tral Friendship Socie­ty in Paki­stan. In any case, a col­la­bo­ra­ti­on bet­ween the GDR embas­sy and the Friendship Socie­ty in Laho­re, for examp­le, was ham­pe­red by the fact that the Paki­sta­ni government refu­sed the necessa­ry appro­val for the acti­vi­ties of such Friendship Socie­ties in the coun­try and deman­ded that invi­ta­ti­ons alrea­dy exten­ded to visit the GDR be with­drawn. Nevertheless, Paki­stan soon began to make deman­ds of the GDR as Maretz­ki repor­ted: “With regard to the deve­lo­p­ment of rela­ti­ons Paki­stan has high expec­ta­ti­ons which, alt­hough not yet for­mu­la­ted con­crete­ly, pre­su­me unrea­listic eco­no­mic and sci­en­ti­fic-tech­no­lo­gi­cal help from the GDR.”[9] Howe­ver, the GDR was not inte­res­ted in paying out sub­stan­ti­al deve­lo­p­ment aid to Pakistan.

After diplo­ma­tic rela­ti­ons were estab­lis­hed, the GDR was less inte­res­ted in play­ing an eco­no­mic role in the poli­tics of the Indian sub­con­ti­nent than in impro­ving its visi­bi­li­ty in the host coun­try. Alrea­dy at the begin­ning of 1973, Wal­ter Schmidt, the first repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the GDR in Paki­stan, rea­li­sed that this was not par­ti­cu­lar­ly good: “The first offi­cial and unof­fi­cial con­ta­cts with Paki­sta­nis shows that the GDR as a sta­te is com­ple­te­ly unknown and that as far as this is con­cer­ned, we have to begin from scratch. Even the Spea­ker of the Par­lia­ment […] wel­co­med me warm­ly, but then wan­ted to show me that he alrea­dy knows the names of some poli­ti­ci­ans in my coun­try and named Ade­nau­er, Erhardt, Kie­sin­ger and Brandt.”[10]

After estab­li­shing diplo­ma­tic ties with Paki­stan, the GDR first of all, adop­ted the for­eign poli­cy con­cerns of the Soviet Uni­on by pro­pa­ga­ting the “crea­ti­on of a collec­ti­ve secu­ri­ty sys­tem in Asia”. Any bila­te­ral goals of the GDR had to take a secon­da­ry place. Thus, a tra­de agree­ment, for examp­le, could not be con­clu­ded immedia­te­ly after diplo­ma­tic ties were set up. One of the main rea­sons for this was that the GDR did not want to be bound to con­cre­te com­mit­ments on the scope of this tra­de by Paki­stan. It was only in 1974 that the GDR con­clu­ded a tra­de and pay­ments agree­ment as well as a cul­tu­ral agree­ment with Paki­stan. Apart from this, per­so­nal con­ta­cts and mutu­al visits bet­ween the GDR and Paki­stan remai­ned spo­ra­dic and the effec­ti­ve­ness of the dif­fe­rent Friendship Socie­ties remai­ned limi­ted. The GDR was now offi­cial­ly repre­sen­ted in Paki­stan, but it hard­ly left its mark there.


While rela­ti­ons of both the Ger­man sta­tes with India have alrea­dy recei­ved con­si­derable aca­de­mic atten­ti­on with Johan­nes Voigt’s Die Indi­en­po­li­tik der DDR. Von den Anfän­gen bis zur Aner­ken­nung (1952–1972) [Kӧln/Weimar/Wien: Bӧhlau Ver­lag, 2008] and Amit Das Gupta’s Han­del, Hil­fe, Hall­stein-Dok­trin. Die bun­des­deut­sche Süd­asi­en­po­li­tik unter Ade­nau­er und Erhard, 1945–1966 [Husum: Mat­t­hie­sen Ver­lag, 2004], the­re is no secon­da­ry lite­ra­tu­re whatsoever on the exchan­ge bet­ween the FRG or the GDR with Paki­stan. As long as Pakistan’s archi­ves con­ti­nue to remain clo­sed to for­eig­ners, his­to­ri­ans inte­res­ted in Ger­ma­ny-Paki­stan diplo­ma­tic histo­ry are com­pel­led to car­ry out pri­ma­ry source rese­arch in Ger­man archi­ves. The­se would be the Poli­ti­cal Archi­ves of the For­eign Office (Poli­ti­sches Archiv des Aus­wär­ti­gen Amts, PA AA) in Ber­lin and the Federal Archi­ves (Bun­des­ar­chiv, BArch) in Ber­lin and Koblenz.

For the peri­od till 1979, the archi­val hol­ding of the MfAA in the PA AA is orga­nis­ed the­ma­ti­cal­ly accord­ing to the princip­le of per­ti­nence. All inter­nal MfAA cor­re­spon­dence and reports per­tai­ning to Paki­stan are in the PA AA in the hol­ding M1-Zen­tral­ar­chiv. Archi­val docu­ments covering the time-peri­od until 1966 have a signa­tu­re begin­ning with A, while the signa­tu­re of the docu­ments belon­ging to a later peri­od begins with C. Bey­ond the MfAA hol­ding, howe­ver, the assess­ments of the “other side” are of cour­se also informative.

The West Ger­man AA orga­nis­ed its archi­val docu­ments from the begin­ning accord­ing to the princip­le of pro­ven­an­ce. The files of the coun­try desk “IB 5 Süd- und Ost­asi­en, Aus­tra­li­en, Neu­see­land und Ozea­ni­en” (IB 5- South and East Asia, Aus­tra­lia, New Zea­land, and Ocea­nia), which also hand­led the bila­te­ral poli­ti­cal rela­ti­ons of the FRG to Paki­stan are found in the hol­ding B 37. A curious fact is that the PA AA has evi­dent­ly wron­gly clas­si­fied a file belon­ging to the coun­try desk IB 5: the volu­me 306 deals with rela­ti­ons of the GDR to Paki­stan, but ins­tead of being in the B37 hol­ding, it is in hol­ding B 38 – Ber­lin und Wie­der­ver­ei­ni­gungs­fra­gen (Ber­lin and Issu­es of Reuni­fi­ca­ti­on). In addi­ti­on, the rele­vant cor­re­spon­dence and reports of the FRG embas­sy in Islam­abad are found in the hol­ding “AV Neu­es Amt” (New Office) under the abbre­via­ti­on ISLA. As part of the “rela­ti­ons of the host coun­try with third coun­tries”, regu­lar reports of the diplo­ma­tic mis­si­ons abroad always also dealt with the exchan­ge bet­ween the host coun­try and the GDR.

Final­ly, in the Federal Archi­ve (B Arch) in Ber­lin, in the hol­ding “DY 13 Liga für Völ­ker­freund­schaft der DDR” (League of the GDR for Friendship among the Peo­p­les), the umbrel­la orga­ni­sa­ti­on for the natio­nal Friendship Socie­ties in the GDR, the­re are docu­ments of an inde­pendent­ly ope­ra­ting Paki­stan-GDR Friendship Socie­ty reques­ting the com­pe­tent Ger­man-Sou­the­ast Asi­an Socie­ty of the GDR for sup­port (main­ly financial).



Schwab in “Außen­po­li­ti­sche Direk­ti­ve für den Besuch der Dele­ga­ti­on des Minis­te­ri­ums für Außen­han­del und Inner­deut­schen Han­del in Paki­stan”, 30 Octo­ber 1963, PA AA M 1, A 13948.


Par­vez Masud Baig to the Ger­man-Sou­the­ast Asi­an Socie­ty, 9 Decem­ber 1971, BArch, DY 13/2240.


Ber­ger to the AA, 25 Janu­a­ry 1971, PA AA, B 37, Vol. 634.


Ber­ger to the AA, 23 Octo­ber 1972, PA AA, ISLA, Vol. 8149.


Die­sel to the embas­sy in Rawalpin­di, 23 Octo­ber 1972, PA AA, ISLA, Vol. 8149.


Van Well to the embas­sy in Rawalpin­di, 24 Octo­ber 1972, PA AA, ISLA, Vol. 8149.


Ber­ger to the AA, 26 Octo­ber 1972, PA AA, ISLA, Vol. 8149.


Ber­ger to the AA, 25 Janu­a­ry 1973, PA AA, B 37, Vol. 100303.


Maretz­ki to Willerding/MfAA, 27 June 1973, PA AA, M 1, C 89/78.


Schmidt to Radde/MfAA, 8 Febru­a­ry 1973, PA AA, M1, C 97/98.

Alex­an­der Bena­tar, Evan­ge­li­sche Zen­tral­stel­le für Welt­an­schau­ungs­fra­gen (EZW)