The formal opening of the Ethiopian embassy in Islamabad is a milestone development in the bilateral cooperative relations of Islamabad and Addis Ababa because the governments of both states have now decided to boost their interstate relations against the prevailing threats of contemporary world politics. In May 2023, the formal inauguration of the Embassy in Islamabad let the formal government representatives of both states appreciate their vision of promoting economic, cultural, and diplomatic bilateral ties.
The participation of Ethiopian formal state authorities in the embassy’s launching ceremony praised Islamabad’s role in cooperating with Addis Ababa in climate change, immigration, security, and terrorism.
The bilateral partnership on these international issues and the increasing diplomatic services through the opening of the embassy in Islamabad communicated to Pakistan authorities the vision of the Ethiopian government for deepening multidimensional ties with Pakistan. The ambitions of two-sided state officials for exploring the future avenues of cooperation are fundamentally inherited in a brief history of the Islamabad-Addis Ababa relation, which started in the 1950s. Establishing cordial diplomatic relations between states laid the foundations of collaborative interaction in limited areas due to the geographical and cultural disconnects. The only factor providing confidence to Islamabad for exploring Ethiopian multidimensional trading potential is the common ideological grounds between Islamabad and Addis Ababa in which Ethiopia has strong relevance to Islamic history.
In contrast, Pakistan has a strong footing in the Muslim world. The common ideological foundations and the consensus of both state governments on different ideological issues of the Muslim world proved a strong force in constructing Pakistan-Ethiopia bilateral relations. The supporting points in this regard are the active political coordination at the state level and the absence of critical points of disagreement between Islamabad and Addis Ababa. The absence of any major disagreement between the leaders of both states always encouraged the two nations to work for productive and positive developments while appreciating each other’s regional and extra-regional standings.
The opening of the Ethiopian embassy in Islamabad supports Pakistan’s foreign policy under the “Engage Africa Initiative.” This initiative was launched by the government of Pakistan in 2019 with the objectives of exploring the untapped potential of African countries and strengthening bilateral relations with African nations.
The core theme of this initiative was to develop people-to-people solid contacts between Pakistan and African countries while emphasizing exclusively the construction of cultural linkages between Islamabad and the African nations. The initial progress of the Engage Africa Initiative was secured by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce of Pakistan when they hosted a joint international conference in Islamabad in November 2019 and showed the will of the Pakistani government to engage with African countries in the multidimensional areas.
The objective of cultivating the high diplomatic and political values between Islamabad and African countries led Pakistan toward the African continent, in which several African nations showed their determination to construct multifaceted cooperative ties with Islamabad. In the list of African countries’ ambitions for developing cordial ties with Pakistan, Ethiopia emerged as one of the key players in accepting and appreciating Islamabad’s vision for exploring the African continent.
The significance of Ethiopia increased in Pakistan’s economic calculations in 2019 when the Ministry of Commerce introduced a trade-centric “Look Africa Initiative” and relocated six commercial sections from Europe to Africa while considering Ethiopia is one of the leading economies of the African continent. The main objective of Pakistan’s government for enhancing cooperation with African countries is the expansion of trade with the African leading economies such as Addis Ababa.
In the post-inaugural session of the Embassy in Islamabad, the Pakistan government exclusively focused on improving bilateral ties between Pakistan and Ethiopia by creating the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). In this regard, the Embassy of Pakistan in Addis Ababa significantly promoted various business avenues between Pakistan and Ethiopia. To improve direct trading mechanisms between Islamabad and Addis Ababa, the formal state authorities of both states have created a Pakistan-Ethiopia Business Forum. Recently launched, this business forum has successfully brought over 150 investment opportunities from across the world on a single platform, and the launching of a two-sided Business Forum laid the foundations of close Pakistan-Ethiopia trading relations.
The extension of cooperative ties between Islamabad and Addis Ababa has created a business forum between the prominent business communities of Pakistan and Ethiopia.
A significant development in this regard is an interstate meeting between the leading state authorities from Islamabad and Addis Ababa. This meeting was the first interaction between the Pakistani and Ethiopian state authorities under the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in April 2019.
Through these regular meetings between the formal state representatives of both states, the leaders of the two nations have realized and appreciated the under-construction development projects of each other, such as Pakistan China Economic Corridor (CPEC), Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET), and Port Sudan-Ethiopia Railway Connectivity. These developmental projects have increased the geo-economic significance of both states in the respective regions, which could boost their existing trading volumes with other states. These projects empower the economic muscles of both states and let their leaders benefit from each other’s economies in multiple ways.
While reclaiming the future plans of Pakistan and Ethiopia, it is pertinent to mention here that the leaders of both states agreed on certain points, such as the launching of direct flights between to facilitate their respective societies with the belief that the direct flight would let the governments of Pakistan and Ethiopia widen their existing trading interaction. The start of direct flight will address the traveling problems of the two-sided business communities parallel to helping them understand the cultural values of each other. The cultural disconnects between Pakistani and Ethiopian nations need more attention from the two-sided leaders.
The formal representatives of both states seek to develop active coordination between Ethiopia and Pakistani societies, believing that dynamic societal connections will increase the chances of Foreign Direct Investment in both countries. The government of Pakistan has also communicated to the Ethiopian authorities the determination of Islamabad to continue its role in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs).
This determination of Pakistan is rooted in Islamabad’s vision for contributing to and promoting the cause of peace and security in the African continent.
Based on these realities, it is appropriate to maintain that the leading decision-making formal circles of Pakistan and Ethiopia must explore the untapped areas of their bilateral cooperation. Exploration of untapped trading potential in various unexplored areas will enable both states’ governments to improve their critical economic conditions. Thus, the opening of the embassy in Islamabad has been called by the governments of both states the start of a new history where a high degree of political coordination will support the vision of two-sided economic development simultaneously. Now, the governments of the two states are required to rationalize their formal statements with solid practical measures, which could not be treated as a challenging task.
The author is an Assistant Professor, at the Department of International Relations, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad.