This qualitative paper reports findings of an investigation into buyer–supplier interaction in the Pakistani auto-parts industry. We conceptualize technological catch-up by Pakistani suppliers in four relatio-spatial dimensions with international joint ventures (IJVs) as mediating gateways between dimensions. A critical realist lens is deployed to connect macro-level constructs with micro-level concepts and expose the interplay between agency (micro-level) and structurally constraining (macro-level) conditions inherent in a late-liberalizing emerging economy. Key findings are that catch-up occurs in four temporally overlapping dimensions in which, different macro-level governance mechanisms and firm-level orientations transform and affect the degree of catch-up. The findings support an optimum pathway for catch-up from an apprentice like transactional state in Dimension One to a fourth dimension in which relational interaction with foreign suppliers becomes lightly mediated by the IJV's gateway.