CPEC: Pakistan-Uzbekistan multifaceted regional connectivity
After the fall of Kabul “geopolitics” has been converted into geo-economy and consequently sincere efforts are being carried out now to achieve the ultimate goal of greater regional connectivity between Pakistan and the Central Asian States (CAS), especially with the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Since we live in the era of globalization in which active, productive and beneficial regionalism has its own importance.
Economic hub transportation facilities, seaport maritime connections and last but not the least, railway tracks are the new attributors of economic stimulation and greater regional connectivity.
Moreover, the Chinese concept of shared prosperity in the shape of One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI) and its flagship project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have given new “impetus” to regional connectivity.
In this context, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have been “striving” hard to achieve stability and peace in the region through greater regional connectivity by jointly working to bring harmony to Afghanistan.
Most recently, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Uzbekistan and called on President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The Foreign Minister reiterated commitment to enhance bilateral ties in all areas of mutual interests for the greater regional connectivity.
The President of Uzbekistan termed relations with Pakistan important. He remarked that Uzbekistan was keen to develop ties with Pakistan in all areas, particularly in transport and connectivity.
Moreover, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s “Ten Initiatives” are a roadmap of greater regional connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia which needs to be implemented as soon as possible.
It is a modern “Transportation Network Modelling and Calibration” to create modern, efficient and safe transport and logistics infrastructure in Central Asia and South Asia.
It is “Bible of Commercial Diplomacy” which eschews conspiracies, conflicts and contradictions and promotes spirits of cooperation, coordination and collaboration among the main stakeholder in the region.
According to President Mirziyoyev the Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway has the “potential” to become the main “architecture” of the greater regional connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia. In this connection, the proposed Trans-Regional Railway Project (TRRP) has already received “necessary” political patronage and financial support from all the main stakeholders in the region and beyond.
Prime Minister Imran Khan while addressing the “Pak-Uzbek Business Forum” projected the strategic importance and utility of CPEC which would be used for achieving the desired goals of greater connectivity, socio-economic integration, eradication of poverty, new job generation and last but not the least, stability and harmony in the region.
-He termed Pakistan’s connectivity with Uzbekistan in trade and bilateral spheres a giant step to open up new avenues of prosperity in the region.
He assured the businessmen and traders of Uzbekistan that Pakistan will extend all possible facilitations in promotion of trade. He labelled the trans-regional railway project as revolutionary development among Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
He termed regional peace and security essential for socio-economic prosperity. He also called for more frequent flights between Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
He emphasized that the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), banking system, financial cooperation and improvement in customs would open a new era of cooperation between Pakistan and Uzbekistan. He said Pakistani businessmen have come up with a plan for investment in Uzbekistan.
More than US$ 500 million agreements were signed between the Pak-Uzbek Business Forum between Pakistan & Uzbek investors and trade houses.
Uzbekistan has now become a land of opportunities and one of the biggest attractions of seeking foreign direct investments in the region and beyond in which Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s constant structural reforms played a vital role.
It has expanded its trade & commerce relationship beyond the immediate neighbourhood.
In this connection, a series of spells of high officials meetings, interactive sessions, exchange of mutually beneficial proposals, economic incentives, trade promotion pledges, and last but not the least, constant seaports facilitations has now revolutionized the “concept” of regional connectivity between Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
It seems that successful commercial diplomacy of both the countries is now paying its dividends and “caravans” of greater regional connectivity have been embarked on their successful infinite voyages.
The first shipment under the Convention on International Transport of Goods for traffic-in-transit of goods crossed the border reached Pakistan from Uzbekistan via Afghanistan in 48 hours.
It actually diminished the concept of double landlocked doctrine and enhanced regional connectivity.
The Ministry of Commerce termed it a “new milestone” which has been achieved as the result of collaboration between the transport companies of the two sides.
It followed the successful shipment of first-ever cargo from Pakistan to Uzbekistan earlier this month.
It marked the beginning of a new era where trucks from both sides will take trade cargo to and from Karachi and Gwadar ports.
On May 11, 2021 a cargo truck with an Uzbek license plate safely crossed the Afghan transit route in two days and reached the Torkham checkpoint near Peshawar.
It is successfully achieved with the help of the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Islamabad and the Ministry of Commerce of Pakistan and the partners of Asad Trans and Best Trans Pvt Ltd.
All main stakeholders have been working since January this year on this project for direct delivery of Uzbek goods to Pakistani cities through Afghanistan according to the “supplier’s warehouse-importer’s warehouse” scheme.
The specified transit transportation of Uzbek goods is the implementation of a trans-Afghan transport and logistics project initiated by the President of Uzbekistan.
It reduces the cost of transportation of Uzbek goods, including shipping at the Uzbek-Afghan border and subsequently at the Afghan-Pakistani border, in accordance with the TIR Carnet Convention dated 1975, members of which are Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Being a prominent regional expert of Uzbekistan & CIS, I suggest that since both countries have now signed “strategic partnership” more “concrete” steps should be initiated to make it ‘mutually” beneficial in terms of trade and commerce, joint ventures, industrialization and of course regional connectivity.
Even “symbolic” gestures in terms of joint film production should be started as soon as possible. In this regard as a ‘pilot” project Uzbek famous historic drama “Mendirman Jaloliddin” should be aired on Pakistan TV with Urdu translation.
Moreover, an interactive, informative and productive “internship” program may be started at once, in which Centre of Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS) having rich experience and expertise may play a decisive role.
To achieve the direct flight mechanism direct flights have been again restarted between the two countries.
Now more focus should be given to include and encourage private sectors of both the countries to “accelerate” the pace of bilateral trade and commerce ties between the two sides.
In this regard, the concept of modern segmentation/classification may be used through formation of “corridor of knowledge” in which the CGSS may play an important role in the days to come.
Cultural diplomacy in terms of education cooperation, joint publications, joint think-tanks (Pak-Uzbek), media cooperation and last but not the least “digital connectivity” is the need of the hour.
Since both countries have “comparative advantages” in the textile sector which should be clubbed through forming a “Joint Textile City (JTC) in free economic zone on a reciprocal basis.
To conclude a “Joint Transport Company (JTC)” formation of “Reciprocal Trade Houses (RTHs)” a “Joint Merchandise Shipping Company (JMSC) and last but not least revival of financial and banking ties may be good omen for both the countries in which CPEC may be a connecting hub.