THE visit of the Tajik President, Emomali Rahmon, to Pakistan, which took place at an appropriate time, would surely give a fresh boost to the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
The understanding reached during his intensive talks with Pakistani leadership and agreements signed on the occasion are reflective of the resolve of the two countries to move towards forging a strategic partnership that would not only be mutually beneficial but also have soothing effect on the overall peace and security of South and Central Asia and brighten the prospects for accelerated socio-economic development in the two regions.
These are momentous times in the history of the regions as the United States is withdrawing its troops from neighbouring Afghanistan, a development that could have far-reaching implications and consequences both for Pakistan and Afghanistan; the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has taken a new turn due to illegal measures by Modi Government; Covid-19 pandemic has gripped Pakistan and Tajikistan like other countries and they are striving hard to revive their economies.
It is encouraging that the visit afforded an opportunity to the two sides to take stock of all these and other issues of mutual interest and demonstrated their commitment to harmonize their strategies and policies to help safeguard their national interests.
Ever since independence of Central Asian Republics, it has been the desire of Pakistan to have closer ties with CARs but unfortunately ambitious initiatives like energy corridors, connectivity and significant increase in trade and investment were badly affected by volatility in Afghanistan.
After eighteen long years, the occupation forces have realized the futility of seeking a military solution in Afghanistan but regrettably the withdrawal of foreign troops is not accompanied by visible progress towards peaceful resolution of the conflict, sparking fears that the country could plunge into yet another phase of chaos and instability once occupation forces vacate their aggression.
This is borne out by raging battles in almost all parts of Afghanistan during the last few weeks with serious consequences for neighbouring countries including Pakistan and Tajikistan.
At the joint news conference with the Tajik leader, Prime Minister Imran Khan reflected concerns of the two countries in this regard when he pointed out that if the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan is similar to what Russia did in 1989 it will have consequences for security of our trade and connectivity and that both sides agreed that peace in Afghanistan would be their priority.
As the United States seems to be only interested in having a face-saving for withdrawal and is least bothered about what happens afterwards, there should be urgency on the part of regional countries to contribute their share for peaceful resolution of the conflict.
This is crucial for meaningful progress on important projects like TAPI, CASA-1000, rail and road links, extension of CPEC to Afghanistan and onwards to Central Asia and promotion of regional trade.
Pakistan has understandably offered CPEC and seaport facilities to Tajikistan but again all this is closely linked to what transpires in Afghanistan in the short and long terms.
The broad understanding that the two countries arrived at during the visit of President Emomali is in line with the vision of Pakistan to develop multifarious relations with the countries of Central Asia.
On the occasion, the two countries signed a number of MOUs that would help trade grow and increase connectivity besides their resolve to bolster cooperation in the field of defence and security in order to face the security challenges faced by the two countries and the region.
The agreement for sale of Pakistani arms to Tajikistan is not only an indication of the desire of the two countries to upgrade their strategic cooperation but is yet another manifestation of Pakistan emerging as a quality exporter of small arms and ammunition.
President Emomali conveyed his country’s interest in joining regional transport corridor projects and access to Karachi and Gwadar seaports.
The President of Tajikistan offered to convene a Joint Working Group to address issues of transit trade at the earliest and invite Afghanistan to participate in its meeting to boost trade and commerce with the view to engage the broader region in this process.
This could prove to be an important milestone in translating the understanding reached into practical measures for mutual and regional cooperation.
The call made by the two leaders to the international community to play its active role and help peacefully resolve all the outstanding disputes around the world in line with the UN Security Council resolutions and the principles of international law is an expression of Tajik support for Pakistan’s principled position on Jammu and Kashmir.
To sum up, a comprehensive framework for broader and intensified cooperation in various fields is there and what we need is a follow-up action by relevant ministries and institutions.