PRIME Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Uzbekistan has brought Pakistan a step closer to its cherished objective of strength ening multi-dimensional relations with the Central Asian Republics (CARs) as discussions among top leadership of the two countries led to an understanding for establishment of a strategic partnership for mutual benefit.
In a joint declaration, Pakistan Prime Minister and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed to strengthen their multifaceted ties in political, trade and economic, energy, communication, science and technology, education and cultural spheres and fighting Covid-19.
Pakistan’s desire to have a strong and vibrant relationship with the Central Asian region is evident from the fact that it was one of the first countries to accord recognition to Uzbekistan in 1991 and the two countries have agreed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their diplomatic relations in a befitting manner.
However, it is also a fact that Pakistan’s relationship with CARs including Uzbekistan has still not assumed dimensions that were originally conceived by planners and decision-makers on both sides mainly because of instability in Afghanistan.
The full functioning of the Gwadar Seaport now offers an opportunity to make amends for as far as the low bilateral trade is concerned.
The visit of the Prime Minister also highlighted some other important aspects of bilateral relationship including an agreement on transit trade as an important tool for expanding bilateral trade.
The two leaders reiterated their support for the Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project as an important initiative to create a rail link from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea through Afghanistan and Pakistani seaports of Karachi, Gwadar and Bin Qasim.
It is encouraging that Pakistan and Uzbekistan are closely coordinating on the Afghan issue and their collaborative efforts might contribute to the ultimate goal of restoration of peace in the war-torn country unlocking unlimited cooperation in different areas especially economy, trade, energy and connectivity.
The two countries stressed the necessity to resolve the conflict through Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process through peaceful and inclusive negotiations resulting in comprehensive political settlement, a development that reflects unanimity of views on the crisis and the way out.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can also complement efforts of the two countries to build a strong relationship and with this in view the understanding of the two countries on the subject is appreciable as they recognised the immense potential of the CPEC for the benefit of the entire Central Asian region and beyond entailing greater connectivity and trade linkages through a network of transport, fibre optic cable, energy pipelines and investment opportunities in its SEZs.
Resumption of direct regular flights between Pakistan and Uzbekistan is also a welcome development as it would facilitate greater interaction between the business communities of the two countries.
The Prime Minister rightly pointed out that Pakistan and Uzbekistan had a lot of potential for joint ventures between their private sectors for mutual benefit and held out an assurance that his Government was committed to removing impediments in the way of various businesses and industries, including the pharmaceutical industry. The International Conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity.
Challenges and Opportunities” held at the special initiative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev also reflected the desire on the part of Tashkent to promote regional cooperation and highlight impediments that obstruct realization of this dream.
The conference had a crucial agenda including implementation of specific projects and cooperation programs, enhancing interaction in tourism, education, healthcare, science and culture, ensuring stability and security of the two regions.
It is also important to note that at the sixth meeting of the Uzbek-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade-Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation (IGC), held a day earlier to the visit of the PM, the two countries agreed that a trans-Afghan corridor, which connects Uzbekistan and Pakistan, will play an important role in enhancing bilateral trade between the two countries.
They also agreed to deepen partnership in the field of industrial cooperation, including by organizing joint ventures in the field of textile industry, assembly of agricultural machinery, processing and packaging of fruit and vegetable products.
The Pak-Uzbek business forum, which was attended by around 130 representatives of leading companies and business houses from Pakistan, resulted in signing of agreements worth $453 million, a concrete achievement of the visit of the Prime Minister.
Apart from economy and trade, the two leaders also agreed to maintain a regular dialogue and build constructive cooperation in the field of security and defence and to expand cooperation between law enforcement agencies of the two countries, particularly in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.
In fact, the visit laid a solid foundation for meaningful promotion of ties between the two countries and it is now up to the ministries and institutions concerned of Pakistan and Uzbekistan to expedite actual implementation of the understanding reached on the occasion.