By: Noreen Haider
PO: Your Excellency, How would you describe the bilateral trade relations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan.
AA: We have excellent bilateral relations as well as strategic relations. We support each other in many different ways. As far as the economic and trade relations are concerned, we are trying to boost our trade relations and striving to increase them in the future. Our trade volume has increased 25% in 2018 and we expect it to go much further.
The potential of trade between Azerbaijan and Pakistan is enormous. In 2017 we signed an agreement for cooperation in the energy sector. The most important area is of course is the Energy sector. There is big demand in the energy sector and oil and gas products and we are exploring further possibilities in the energy sector. Thankfully, the Economic Coordination Committee ECC has allowed Pakistan State Oil for trade agreements with oil companies in Azerbaijan. This would greatly help increase the trade turnover in the future.
We also have cooperation in Defence Production field. Azerbaijan is also buying Mushaq aircrafts from Pakistan. Other than that there is cooperation in agriculture sector also and there is interest in fruits and vegetables of Pakistan for us, especially mangoes, kinos and potatoes.
Azerbaijan is selling chemicals, dry fruits, canned juices and many other products in Pakistan. So the trade is healthy and growing well.
PO: Pakistan has always been a strong supporter of Azerbaijan since its independence and has brotherly relations with it. You think the relations have become stronger since then?
AA: Yes of course. Pakistan and Azerbaijan are brotherly countries. Our relations are warm and cordial based on trust and respect. We grieve together, we share our joys together. On the Nagorno-Karabakh-which is the issue of the twenty percent of internationally recognized territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan being occupied by Armenia-Pakistan has always stood by Azerbaijan and upheld its claim and right to the territory. So much so that Pakistan does not even recognize Armenia and has no diplomatic ties with it. This way Pakistan has proved to be a very dear friend and brother.
There has also been a lot of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan during the times of emergencies like the 2005 Earthquake and the flood in 2010 that badly affected Pakistan. The Azerbaijan government as well as many organizations in Azerbaijan were quick to respond to the emergencies and extended their support in the time of crisis. The Government of Azerbaijan has generously assisted in the earthquake hit areas.
PO: How what efforts are you making to improve the cultural ties between the two countries.
AA: We are very enthusiastic about improving our cultural ties and people to people contact. Last year the number of tourists from Pakistan to Baku was around forty two thousand which is very encouraging. We have a very easy simplified online visa system and anyone can get a visa in three days or even in a few hours if they need it urgently. This has attracted the tourists very much.
But still there is a lot of work needed and there should be more travel agents here to attract the tourists and also efforts to introduce the culture from Azerbaijan including the food and music etc.
I think the media can also play an important role in promoting Azerbaijan culture and making it attractive for Pakistani tourists. Many journalists have also visited Baku in the past several months and it is good that people in Pakistan are now choosing Azerbaijan as one of their favoured tourist destinations.