Pakistan-Uzbekistan ties are tied up with deep historical, religious and cultural affinities. The relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan gained strength over the years because of these affinities and shared values, hence both states worked towards having close cooperation with each other at the international and regional level. Pakistan and Uzbekistan are situated in a region of great geo-strategic importance. Cooperation between the two distant neighbours is significant for the political and economic well-being of the entire region which will eventually lead towards sustainable peace and development. The recent visit of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has further strengthened the commitment of both brotherly countries towards shared destiny and prosperous future based on peace, development, trade and connectivity.
Pakistan and Uzbekistan, though, have over 29 year’s diplomatic relations but they have deep rooted historical roots. Pakistan has equally been inspired and affected by the cultural, rich traditions, values of the great civilization sprouted in the region from today’s Uzbekistan. The region, which is now known as Uzbekistan, has produced prolific and great scholars, thinkers and physicians in the history who spent their entire lives working in the fields of medicine and science which laid the foundation of modern science, health technology and medicine.
It is pertinent to mention that the scholars like Imam Bukhari, Imam Tirmzi, Al-Khorezmi, Abu Rayan al-Biruni, Abu Ali Ibn Sina and Ulugbek have significantly contributed to the development of modern civilizations of today’s world. Moreover, it has also remained the centre of world’s economic attention because of the establishment of old Silk Road across Eurasian lands. The old Silk Road is also one of the core reasons behind spreading new principles, religions, ideologies, arts, crafts, traditions, values, cuisines and technologies.
Pakistan and Uzbekistan have been enjoying brotherly bilateral relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1991 but the relations between these nation-states have witnessed unprecedented growth in the recent years. Both countries had been closely collaborating at regional and international forums, especially at the UN, OIC, ECO and SCO, now they are further strengthening the ties by enhancing cooperation in bilateral trade and better connectivity with each other and beyond.
For instance, Uzbekistan hosted the first trilateral talks in which Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan, Advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razzaq Dawood, and Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar participated. These talks resulted into adoption of Mazar-i Shareef-Kabul-Peshawar Road Map. According to this roadmap, a 600-km railroad will be constructed in five years which will give access to Pakistani ports, Gwadar and Karachi.
In addition to it, it is being said that the this railroad would shorten the transportation time, from Uzbekistan to Pakistan, from 30 to 15 days and also reduce the cost of transportation by 30-35 percent. The success of this project will not only benefit Uzbekistan or other Central Asian States but also the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Russia as the cost of transportation between these two countries would also reduce by 15-20 percent.
Moreover, the economic relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan have also shown exponential growth in the recent times. As a result of enhanced cooperation between the two nations, for example, in 2018-2019, trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Pakistan rose three times and amounted around $100 million. During the recent visit of Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, he also attended the first meeting of Joint Working Group on Trade and Economic Affairs.
During the meeting of Joint Working Group, both the sides, Uzbek and Pakistani, agreed to enhance bilateral trade ties between both the countries. “I am glad to share that I held very productive bilateral meetings in Tashkent with the leadership of Uzbekistan on trade, Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), Transit Trade and Custom Cooperation,” Mr. Razak said at the conclusion of his visit to Uzbekistan.
To further strengthen bilateral brotherly ties between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov paid two-day visit to Pakistan and held the meetings with Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan with FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi and PM Imran Khan. During the meeting, PM Imran Khan expressed appreciation for the proposed Trans-Afghan railway project.
PM Imran Khan also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to support all efforts for the earliest realization of this important regional connectivity project. While meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov has reiterated Uzbekistan’s commitment to expand bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields.
Moreover, during the meeting between FM Qureshi and FM Kamilov, the two Foreign Ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress achieved in advancing rail connectivity between the two countries and agreed on early completion of Trans-Afghan railway project. FM Qureshi underscored the importance of closer agricultural cooperation between the two countries particularly in cotton seed sector. He also expressed satisfaction at the level of cooperation between the two countries in the multilateral organizations such as the UN, OIC, ECO and SCO.
On the other side, Mr. Kamilov, while meeting with FM Qureshi, highlighted Pakistan’s positive role for the facilitation of Intra-Afghan Negotiations. The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s support to Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process culminating in an inclusive and broad-based political solution. He also underlined the grave and systemic human rights violations in IIOJK by Indian security forces.
Deep rooted religious, cultural and historical affinities has provided strong base for the establishment of brotherly ties between Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Now, the enhanced bilateral trade, political, people-to-people and economic ties between the two nations have paved the way for shared and prosperous future centred on peace and development which will ultimately lead to sustainable peace and development for the entire region.
After the fall of Kabul “geopolitics” has been converted into geo-economy and consequently sincere efforts are being carried out now to achieve the ultimate goal of greater regional connectivity between Pakistan and the Central Asian States (CAS), especially with the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Moreover, the Chinese concept of shared prosperity in the shape of One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI) and its flagship project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have given new “impetus” to regional connectivity. In this context, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have been “striving” hard to achieve stability and peace in the region through greater regional connectivity by jointly working to bring harmony to Afghanistan.
Most recently, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Uzbekistan and called on President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The Foreign Minister reiterated commitment to enhance bilateral ties in all areas of mutual interests for the greater regional connectivity. The President of Uzbekistan termed relations with Pakistan important. He remarked that Uzbekistan was keen to develop ties with Pakistan in all areas, particularly in transport and connectivity. Moreover, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s “Ten Initiatives” are a roadmap of greater regional connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia which needs to be implemented as soon as possible.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan also visited Uzbekistan and while addressing the “Pak-Uzbek Business Forum” projected the strategic importance and utility of CPEC which would be used for achieving the desired goals of greater connectivity, socio-economic integration, eradication of poverty, new job generation and last but not the least, stability and harmony in the region. He termed Pakistan’s connectivity with Uzbekistan in trade and bilateral spheres a giant step to open up new avenues of prosperity in the region.
He assured the businessmen and traders of Uzbekistan that Pakistan will extend all possible facilitations in promotion of trade. He labelled the trans-regional railway project as revolutionary development among Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. He termed regional peace and security essential for socio-economic prosperity. He also called for more frequent flights between Pakistan and Uzbekistan. He emphasized that the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), banking system, financial cooperation and improvement in customs would open a new era of cooperation between Pakistan and Uzbekistan. He said Pakistani businessmen have come up with a plan for investment in Uzbekistan.
More than US$ 500 million agreements were signed between the Pak-Uzbek Business Forum between Pakistan & Uzbek investors and trade houses. Uzbekistan has now become a land of opportunities and one of the biggest attractions of seeking foreign direct investments in the region and beyond in which Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s constant structural reforms played a vital role.
To conclude, now more focus should be given to include and encourage private sectors of both the countries to “accelerate” the pace of bilateral trade and commerce ties between the two sides. In this regard, the concept of modern segmentation/classification may be used through formation of “corridor of knowledge”. Cultural diplomacy in terms of education cooperation, joint publications, joint think-tanks (Pak-Uzbek), media cooperation and last but not the least “digital connectivity” is the need of the hour. Moreover, a “Joint Transport Company (JTC)” formation of “Reciprocal Trade Houses (RTHs)” a “Joint Merchandise Shipping Company (JMSC) and last but not least revival of financial and banking ties may be good omen for both the countries in which CPEC may be a connecting hub.