PM Imran Khan, President Mirziyoyev to discuss trans-Afghan railway project, Pak-Uzbek bilateral relations

61

Interview of Ambassador of Uzbekistan Aybek Arif Usmanov


Zubair Qureshi

Prime Minister Imran Khan is holding a comprehensive dialogue through video-link with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev today.

The focus of the dialogue will be apart from bilateral partnership and regional interaction, construction of the Trans-Afghan railway, increasing the volume of mutual trade, expanding cooperation between leading enterprises and companies of the two countries, resuming air traffic, developing interregional contacts and cultural and humanitarian exchanges.

In an interview with Pakistan Observer, Ambassador of Uzbekistan Aybek Arif Usmanov discussed in details matters of mutual interest between the two countries and the current status of bilateral ties.

April 14 online conference, the ambassador said would set the pace of partnership between Uzbekistan and Pakistan as it aimed at strengthening economic, infrastructure and tourism relations between Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Following is the abridged text of the interview:

Q: Excellency, on 14th April, 2021 Leaders of our states are holding an Online Summit. Can you please brief us what will be the outcomes of this historical event? A.: Indeed, it is gratifying to note that the virtual summit at the highest level between Uzbekistan and Pakistan is taking place and I am confident and would like to congratulate both brotherly nations on such high achievement.

The agenda between Uzbekistan and Pakistan is related to issues like further expansion of trade-economic, investment, transport and logistics partnerships based on the principles of mutual respect, benefit and equality.

The leaders of two countries he said will most likely agree on joint actions for cooperation in the areas of economic affairs, defense, security, as well as a partnership in combating against pandemic.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will also invite Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Uzbekistan in July this year.

This is the first virtual contact between the heads of Uzbekistan and Pakistan and is being perceived well in Uzbekistan as the people of Uzbekistan value and respect their relations with Pakistani people and vice versa.

Q: Regarding construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar railway line, what development has been made so far?
A: This significant trilateral project will provide a completely new transport and transit corridor for Central and South Asian countries. It diversifies the transport flows of the region.

Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar route with subsequent access to the ports of Karachi and Gwadar will allow us to significantly reduce export and import costs.

From the position of South Asian countries, commissioning of Trans-Afghan railway corridor to Pakistan direction will significantly reduce the delivery time of goods to/from Central Asia, the CIS and Europe.

For example, if the project would be fully implemented, the transportation of goods from Pakistan to Uzbekistan will have to spend not 35 days, but only 3-5 days.

Instead of movement of almost a month, this will take less than a week. The difference is enormous.

Shortening the route means reducing the cost of transporting goods, which means saving money.

According to preliminary calculations, laying the route will reduce cost of transporting of one container by almost 3 times.

According to expert estimates, the cost of transporting goods from Tashkent to Karachi will be almost 1.5-2 times cheaper than the existing ones.

Continuing this logical chain, we can already predict that an increase in the profitability of transportation will automatically contribute to an increase in freight traffic and interregional trade.

The launch of Mazar-i-Sharif-Peshawar railway will also create a powerful platform for achieving inclusive economic development for Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Q: Another important aspect of Uzbek-Pak cooperation is partnership within the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

What new opportunities has this opened up for the further development of our cooperation within this organization? A: Uzbekistan supported the full membership of Pakistan in the SCO.

It is important to mention that the process of Pakistan’s accession to SCO took place during presidency of Uzbekistan in this organization.

In 2010 comprehensive preparatory work was completed to launch the process of expanding the organization and in 2016 at Tashkent Summit, Memorandums were signed in order to obtain the status of a SCO member state.

Tashkent attaches great importance to Pakistan’s membership in SCO which contributes to a significant increase in organization’s potential.