History of Pakistan Japan friendship


Pakistan played a significant role during 1947-51 in lifting the Occupation and restoring Japan’s sovereignty. Pakistan was described by US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles as the ‘tower of strength’ on the Japanese peace treaty, signed on 8 September 1951 at San Francisco. Unlike many other Asian countries, Pakistan waived war reparations from Japan to help build its economy. Pakistan was among the first few countries that ratified the Japanese peace treaty.

Pakistan also played a leading role in Japan’s postwar economic revival in the 1950s by exporting cotton and jute to Japan as textiles was the only industry allowed to revive under the Occupation. SCAP-Japan sent its first trade mission to Pakistan in May 1948, headed by R. Eaton. Two months later, Japan signed a trade agreement with Pakistan in July 1948, which was also the first trade agreement signed by Japan with any country after the war. Much of Pakistan’s export was on deferred payment as Japan was short of foreign exchange. In exchange for cotton and jute, Pakistan imported textile machinery from Japan. Therefore, a mutually beneficial trade relationship emerged between them. Furthermore, a Japanese trading liaison agency was established in Karachi in 1948, which was also a diplomatic source for Japan after the war. Pakistan sent its first trade mission to Japan under Mirza Abul Isphahani in September 1948 to review the Japanese textile industry for Pakistan’s benefit. Another SCAP-Japan trade mission, headed by E.B. Blatcheley, visited Pakistan in February 1949 and two more trade missions led by B.W. Adams and A.B. Snell respectively visited Pakistan to negotiate cotton and jute for Japanese industry. These visits paved the way for many other trade delegations to Pakistan to enhance trade and to promote other economic activities between the two countries.

Mutual diplomacy

Before regular diplomatic relations were established between Pakistan and Japan, the trade liaison offices in Karachi and Tokyo, working since 1948, were the only sources of trade and diplomatic contacts. Both countries established regular diplomatic missions on 18 April 1952, just ten days after the ratification of the Japanese peace treaty. Therefore, Pakistan established diplomatic and trade contacts with Japan since 1948 – long before Japanese sovereignty was restored by the Allied Powers.

In order to meet the acute shortage of food in Japan caused after the war, Pakistan shipped 60,000 tons of rice through Nichimen vessels to Japan in 1952 and 1953 carrying the signboard ‘Donated Rice to the Emperor of Japan by the Government of Pakistan’. Such was the national sentiment between the two sides in the 1950s.

High level exchanges

Pakistan appointed Mian Ziauddin as its first Ambassador to Japan on 18 April 1952 and Japan Ambassador Kiyoshi Yamagata arrived in Karachi on 4 September 1952. Pakistan and Japan exchanged high level visits in April and May 1957. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Hussain Shaheed Suharawardy was the first Asian leader to visit Japan in April 1957, which opened up the door for Japan to come back to Asia after World War II. Within a month in May 1957, Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi undertook a visit to Pakistan, which was also the first ever visit by a Japanese Prime Minister to Asia after the end of World War II. However, they differed on the Kashmir disputeOne China policy, and the creation of an Asian development bank. Japan remained neutral on Kashmir and initially advocated a plebiscite in Kashmir but later changed its stance. Japan supported Taiwan against the People’s Republic of China(PRC) but Pakistan recognized the PRC as the sole and legitimate government of the people of China. Regarding the setting up of an Asian development bank, Pakistan wanted Japan to first establish and restore diplomatic relations with all Asian countries as they should not see an aggressive but a cooperative Japan. The mutual diplomacy, however, further encouraged the two sides to promote trading and economic ties, creating the environment for normalizing Japanese ties with other Asian nations such as China and the two Koreas. Moreover, Pakistan and Japan were important players in the US-led Cold War strategy in Asia — Pakistan in South Asia and Japan in North East Asia.

President Muhammad Ayub Khan paid a visit to Japan on 12–19 December 1960. The invitation was extended by Japanese Emperor Hirohito in February 1960, another unique aspect in their bilateral relations. Japan wanted to show that it had fully assimilated the spirit of the San Francisco treaty and was willing to boost relations with other Asian nations. For Pakistan, the visit was motivated by economic reasons. Moreover, the United States was encouraging cooperation between its two allies. Ayub’s visit was the ‘grandest’ event ever seen in Japan those days. He was received by the Emperor – an extraordinary welcome as dignitaries were received by the prime minister. Strategically important was Ayub’s stopover at Okinawa, a US marine base, where US High Commissioner General Donald Prentice Booth welcomed a non-American and non-Japanese leader to the base for the first time and offered him a Guard of Honour. This showed an explicit trust between Japanese, Americans, and Pakistanis during the Cold War.

Following Ayub’s visit to Japan, Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda visited Pakistan on 17–20 November 1961 as part of his Asian tour. He offered a loan of 20 million yen – Japan’s first ever to Pakistan (besides India)

Promoting mutual diplomacy between Pakistan and Japan, Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko undertook a visit of Pakistan on 23–29 January 1962 to create the feeling of harmony in Asia, while reparations and normalization were still irritants in improving Japanese relations in Asia. In his welcome address the Emperor admired Japan–Pakistan ties: “Bonded not only by age of old relationship of culture and civilization but also by the modern ties of trade and cooperation, both Japan and Pakistan have first developed a unique identify of thought and we are emphatic in our belief that in between themselves both the governments and the people of these two countries are by virtue of their deep-rooted love for peace capable of exercising an irresistible influence on world opinion”


The One China policy continued to drag Pakistan’s relations with Japan on a different path, affecting the civil aviation agreement as Japan did not grant landing rights to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fly from inside China in the 1960s. China was supportive of PIA’s proposed route but Japan did not agree, apparently under US pressure. Pakistan’s civil aviation route proposal was actually a step toward Sino-Japanese rapprochement, which Japan did not appreciate, thus creating cracks in Japan–Pakistan relations and pushing more Pakistan towards China and mending fences with Eastern Bloc countries sourced by the Cold War activities.