CPEC: South Asia & Central Asia, convergence and convenience | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan


CPEC: South Asia & Central Asia, convergence and convenience

WE live in an “alternative” mechanism not in “absolute” world in which the concept of “relativity” and “game theory” plays a very important role in any bilateral or trilateral relations and business propositions.

  During the most recently-held regular press conference, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian endorsed the importance and utility of relativity and welcomed all countries and international organizations to take part in the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

He showcased CPEC as an important pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative which remained transparent and open since its inception and based on the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.

He further added that the principle of cooperation, collaboration and coordination in the building of CPEC with all the interested countries and international organizations would be on the basis of “consensus” and share the dividends of BRI cooperation.

Pakistan is a “gateway” to landlocked Central Asia and has invited all Central Asian Republics (CARs) to benefit from the shortest route to international seas.

Pakistan desires to forge closer ties with “Uzbekistan” and other CARs in areas of trade, investment, energy and people-to-people exchanges in which CPEC will play an important role.

The Republic of Uzbekistan has been pursuing “holistic” policies to enhance its regional connectivity for achieving desired goals of socio-economic prosperity, regional integration, poverty eradication, energy cooperation and last but not the least mass industrialization.

Thus, CPEC may hold the “key” of success in achieving regional connectivity.

Uzbekistan’s reconnect with South Asia through Pakistan offers the “shortest routes”. It has various “seaports” to benefit/connect Uzbekistan not only with South Asia and beyond.

Most recently, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Dr. Abdulaziz Kamilov paid a personal visit to Pakistan and met Prime Minister Imran Khan and discussed matters of regional connectivity and further strengthening of activities of trade & commerce.

During the meeting, Pakistan Prime Minister Khan emphasized the importance of economic development and enhanced bilateral trade through enhanced regional connectivity and termed it as the “cornerstones” of economic growth and development for both the countries.

He underlined Pakistan’s resolve to forge closer ties with Central Asia, covering trade, investment, energy as well as people-to-people exchanges and the CPEC may provide a “launching pad” to Uzbekistan to move forward to secure its “strategic” interests of “commercial diplomacy” and “regional connectivity” through various seaports of Pakistan and proposed trans-regional railways project.

Both sides have now agreed to develop “alternative routes/corridors” in which CPEC may play a vital role in the future.

Uzbekistan is one of the important countries of One Belt & One Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC is the flagship project.

Thus commercial “convenience” and “convergence” is there to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries through alternative corridors because regional connectivity heavily rests on economic corridors and transportation hubs.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi also held delegation level talks with the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Dr. Abdulaziz Kamilov.

During the meeting, both sides expressed their firm resolve to boost high-level interactions to give impetus to the existing positive momentum in bilateral relations.

It was agreed to maximally utilize the existing institutional mechanisms by regularly convening sessions of Bilateral Political Consultations (BPCS) and Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC).

He also underscored the importance of closer agricultural cooperation between the two countries particularly in the cotton seed sector.

Uzbekistan is blessed with natural coloured cotton which may be utilized by initiating a joint venture in public-private partnership between the two sides.

CPEC Phase-II may carry agricultural development in the country so scope of agricultural cooperation between Pakistan and Uzbekistan may be further strengthened in the days to come.

In this connection during the various spells of bilateral meetings both sides agreed to enhance trade relations, Bilateral Transit Trade Agreement (BTTA), Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), banking and visa issues, and aviation and customs cooperation.

In the near past, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov had various meaningful meetings to further strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.

In order to further deepen the trade ties, both sides also agreed to hold a business conference in Tashkent in July this year.

Most recently, Pakistan offered cooperation to different Uzbek stakeholders including customs, maritime affairs, railways and aviation sectors.

Uzbekistan and Pakistan held the first meeting of the joint working group on trade and economic issues, as well as a railway project to link the two countries.

A special attention is now being paid to the practical aspects of the implementation of the project for the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway.

The Proposed railway link through Afghanistan will have a strategic importance for further strengthening bilateral economic ties and ensuring sustainable development of the Central Asian region.

Uzbekistan’s national rail company has built and operates a railway line to Mazar-i-Sharif town in Afghanistan, and the project aims to link it to Pakistan opening the country’s seaports for the Central Asian region.

Uzbekistan’s President Mirziyoyev’s “paramount” structural reforms have now revolutionized Uzbekistan due to which its role in reconnecting Central Asia with South Asia has now been further consolidated.

Rich in hydrocarbons and mineral resources and possessing a relatively well-educated and low-cost labour force, Uzbekistan has become a leading emerging economy of the world.

Uzbekistan has great potential to serve as a “manufacturing”, transport and technical hub for Central Asia, South Caucasus and South East Asia which may be further strengthened by combining the BRI and CPEC for all future “endeavours” between the two sides.

Uzbekistan has now made a rapid progress in the development and successful implementation of a whole range of industry-specific growth, export-oriented policies, investment & business friendly structural reforms, corruption free governance and society, independent judiciary, transparency and development programs, which have actually revolutionized its economic prospects and business outlook.

It has outperformed all the regional economies in terms of GDP, GNP, job generation, foreign currency management, tourism, service sector and, above all, development of human capital.

Among all the Central Asian Republics Uzbekistan remains the most stable state with well developed capital and social infrastructure.

It is the world’s second largest cotton exporter and fifth largest producer. It also has gas reserves. It also has several operational oil fields.

So convergence and convenience of South Asia & Central Asia may be a beneficial proposition which may be further strengthened by combining the BRI & CPEC.

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