Pakistan and Azerbaijan are two fraternal countries and close and cordial relations between both the countries are characterized by common cultural heritage, shared perceptions on global and regional issues and cooperation at international forums. Due to deeply entrenched affinities, both the countries cherish special bond of friendship.
Pakistan was among the first three countries to recognize Azerbaijan after its independence from the former Soviet Union in October 1991. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in June 1992. Pakistan opened embassy in Baku in March 1993 and Azerbaijan reciprocated in same terms in August 1997.
In upcoming year 2017, both the two countries will celebrate Silver Jubilee of establishment of their diplomatic relations. The cooperation between the two states extends to various spheres ranging from political, economic, security, defence to culture.
Pakistan has been extending unconditional support to Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. As an expression of solidarity with Azerbaijan, Pakistan neither recognized Armenia nor established diplomatic relations with that country as yet.
In February 2012, Senate Foreign Relations Committee of Pakistan recognized “Khojaly Tragedy” (1992) as genocide further reinforcing Pakistan’s support to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan, a member of OIC Contact Group on Kashmir, supports Pakistan’s position on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. On the other-hand Pakistan also welcomes establishment of OIC Contact Group on Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Both the countries also coordinate their workings and positions in the OIC and other international forums on all issues of common interests. Our two countries also support each other unconditionally and at times on a reciprocal arrangement for various candidatures in the international organizations.
High level exchanges have been a regular feature between the two countries. Pakistan former President Sardar Farooq Ahmad Leghari visited Baku in October 1995. This was followed by visit of President Heydar Aliyev to Pakistan in April 1996.
Former President General Pervez Musharraf visited Baku in July 2004 and President Ilham Aliyev paid a return visit to Islamabad in April 2005.
In May 2005, former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz visited Baku to attend 9th session of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). In October 2012, President Asif Ali Zardari visited Azerbaijan to attend 12th ECO summit in Baku.
Present President Mamnoon Hussain visited Azerbaijan from 11-14 March, 2015. This visit opened a new page in the bilateral relations of two countries as two Presidents for the first time since the establishment of diplomatic relation signed a Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the two states.
As a result of this visit, both the countries agreed to establish joint ventures in all possible domains particularly defence, energy, infrastructure, IT, textile and pharmaceuticals. Pakistan offered 50 scholarships for Azeri students in the IT field.
The two sides also concluded Cooperation Programme between Foreign Service Academy (FSA), Islamabad and ADA, University, Baku and MoU on the Establishment of Joint Business Council between Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The two Presidents also co-inaugurated the First ever Azerbaijan-Pakistan Business Forum that enhanced interest among the business community of two countries. First Lady of Azerbaijan Madam Mehriban Aliyeva was decorated with one of the highest civil awards of the country “Hilal-e-Pakistan” by the President of Pakistan personally for the humanitarian work of her organization “Hayder Aliyev Foundation” in Azad Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan.
Baku State University awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree to Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain. All this speaks a lot about close bonds of fraternity and affection that exist between the two people.
Cooperation in the field of defence has also shown upward trajectory. There have been high level exchanges and visits between the two defence forces. Presently this cooperation is mainly focussed on availing military professional courses. In 2015 some 130 Azeri defence personnel received training in Pakistan. Similarly, 36 officers of Pakistan Air Force attended short training courses in Baku. There exists a great potential in this domain for joint ventures and training.
On 21st January this year, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a bilateral meeting with President Ilham Aliyev on the side lines of Devos Business Forum in Devos, Switzerland. The two leaders expressed satisfaction on the existing bilateral relations and agreed to enhance cooperation in various fields including defence. Azerbaijan highly appreciates our government’s vision and policy of a “peaceful neighbourhood” and internal and regional economic development agenda.
In the civilian domain, Pakistan has been offering various courses to Azerbaijan since 1993. A number of civil officials have been trained in Pakistan in the field of diplomacy, International Central Banking and Commercial Banking, Postal, Customs, Railways, IT, and Business Administration. Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy has also started offering some degree courses to Pakistani students through direct enrolments. There are some Pakistani students studying in Baku Medical University on a self-financed basis.
Azerbaijan’s Support to Pakistan:
- Supported Pakistan on Jammu & Kashmir issue and joined the OIC Contact Group on Kashmir since 2012.
- Built a school in Muzafferabad after 2005 earthquake at a cost of US$ 1million
- Gave assistance US$ 1 million each at the time of floods in 2010 and 2011 in Pakistan.
- Carried out and continues small-sized humanitarian project in various parts of Pakistan.
- Baku State University awarded President of Pakistan with Honourary Doctorate Degree
- Azerbaijan supported several Pakistan’s candidatures for the international organizations / institutions.
On the Economic and Trade front the two countries have signed more than 30 bilateral Agreements, MoUs and Cooperation Programmes. Pakistan and Azerbaijan also have institutional arrangement of Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) between them. The JMC has held five sessions since its formation in September 2000. The 6th meeting of the JMC was held in Islamabad on 26-27 April 2106.
There are great prospects to boost cooperation between the two countries in many fields. There is a need to encourage business companies of the two countries to intensify contacts and undertake regular visits. The present economic and trade relations between the two countries do not correspond with the existing high level political goodwill.
There exists a great scope for Azerbaijan to import rice, vegetable and fruit & fruit Preps, medical and pharmaceutical products, textiles and sports goods from Pakistan and at the same time Azerbaijan can export it high quality cotton, fruits, chemicals, fats and oil and non-ferrous metals. Cooperation in the field of Energy has still not taken off the ground. Pakistan is an energy-hungry country. The experts of the two sides are in contact. They need to visit and discuss and explore the possibilities of cooperation.
Azerbaijan extended support to Pakistan during natural calamities. Heydar Aliyev Foundation regularly undertakes humanitarian projects in Pakistan. The Foundation under patronage of Ms. Mehriban Aliyeva, First Lady of Azerbaijan constructed a girls’ school in the city of Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir after 2005 earthquake and also extended assistance to Pakistan in 2010/2011 floods.
It is evident from the above that relations between Pakistan are very warm and cordial. We share many commonalties and more importantly we share each-others’ pains and happiness. The last two years have witnessed an upward trajectory of bilateral relations of the two countries. I tend to believe that this trend would continue and the two states would be able to forge more concrete cooperation in all walks of life and maintain high level relations in the years to come. The friendship and brotherhood between the two people will in any case remain eternal.
Khalid Usman Qaiser
The writer is Ambassador of Pakistan to Azerbaijan & Georgia.