Turkmenistan and Pakistan are two brotherly Muslim countries with unique commonalities of historical and political nature. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were registered in 1992. Pakistan was among the first few countries, which took prompt action for the recognition of Turkmenistan as an independent and sovereign state. Turkmenistan since independence in 1991 has enjoyed the dynamically developed bilateral relations with Pakistan, which have been successfully developing with enormous speed since then. At the present stage Turkmen-Pak relations are characterised by mutual willingness to enhance mutually advantageous partnership. Both sides attach great importance to the friendship between their people and the need to further strengthen their cooperation in diverse fields. Ashgabat and Islamabad agree to enhance cooperation on international and regional issues of common interest, and continue coordination within international and regional mechanisms such as the UN, NAM, G-77, ECO and OIC. Now Ashgabat and Islamabad express their resolve to work together for regional peace, development and prosperity. Strong political will of both the countries will further foster the bilateral relations in terms of greater socio-economic interaction and connectivity, business-to-business coordination, exploration of potential opportunities for joint ventures and foreign direct investments (FDIs) through rigorous commercial diplomacy. Moreover, establishing air, road and rail links on a priority basis will certainly be a value addition.
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif has attended the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline groundbreaking ceremony on December 13, 2015 in South-Eastern Turkmenistan. The recent visit of H.E. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President of Turkmenistan on the 13th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit has also boosted the bilateral relations between the two countries.
During 26 years of bilateral relations both countries signed many inter-governmental agreements to enhance cooperation in the fields of trade, energy, agriculture & livestock, science & technology, education, health, sports and tourism, which will not only further cement Turkmen-Pakistan bilateral relations but will be a game changer for their economies too. However, economy is not the only aspect of Turkmen-Pak relations. Simultaneously the establishment of political, parliamentarian, social and cultupeaceral links has been taking place. During the recent visit of president of Turkmenistan, Pakistan has underlined the significance of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project and expressed satisfaction with the foundation of the project that was laid in December 2015. Turkmenistan’s regional connectivity is based on its concept of “shared prosperity” and TAPI is its prime example. TAPI will revolutionize the macro-economies of all the participating countries and will be the start of a new era of regional cooperation, peace and harmony. TAPI is not just a gas transit initiative connecting energy-rich Central Asia with energy-starved South Asia, but a mega project of strategic importance that will open doors for greater regional economic collaboration and integration. Moreover, Pakistan will also import one thousand megawatts of electricity from Turkmenistan and the Memorandum of Understanding in this regard was signed. Moreover, TAPI gas pipeline will generate economic activity, create job opportunities and improve the living standards. It would also help counter-terrorism and enhance regional trade and development. Through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)–TAPI and One Belt-One Road, bilateral relations of Turkmenistan and Pakistan will be further strengthened in terms of sustained socio-economic integration, greater trade and commerce ties and above having better political understanding on different regional as well as international issues of mutual interest. Moreover, with the completion of Turkmenistan Caspian Seaport it would be connected with the strategic Gwadar Seaport which would further connect blue-economies of both the countries in the days to come. The two countries also agreed to enhance bilateral economic and trade relations. Both sides realized that the volume of trade did not match the goodwill that existed between the two countries. Both countries agreed to take appropriate measures to enhance bilateral trade. The leaders welcomed the initiative of the Pakistan-Turkmenistan Business Forum on the sidelines of the visit. Both sides agreed that such sector based interactions between businessmen of the two countries should be a regular feature to facilitate bilateral trade and investment.
Prospects are bright and opportunities are unlimited between the two countries which have to be explored for accelerating inflows of FDIs, joint ventures, establishment of free economic zone and tangible taxation system. Direct air-link would be a game changer. Preferably Islamabad-Ashgabat-London sky route would be feasible answer to absence of any direct communication links. In Turkmenistan private sector is developed and vibrant and hopefully gradual increase of the share of private sector in GDP from 40 percent in 2010 to 70 percent in 2030 and expansion of share of service delivery in GDP from 29.7 percent in 2010 to 37 percent in 2030. Private sectors of both the countries must avail this golden opportunity for further strengthening of bilateral relations. Turkmenistan has knowledge base economy in which multifunctional productive channels of production, massive industrialization robust oil and gas sector and the last but not the least, oil-processing chemical and petrochemical fields play very important role. Huge mechanical engineering and metal-processing units are producing building materials, light and food industry and contributing in the GDP of the country. According to latest publication of IMF (August, 2016), the growth rate of Turkmenistan’s GDP was 6.7 percent. Its income increased 100.6 per cent and expenses enhanced 78.7 per cent. All the wages, pensions, welfare payments and students’ stipends were financed timely and in full volume. Its budget is socially oriented where most of its allocations are used for the welfare of the people. Education, health care, clean drinking water and shelter segments of the social development are preferred in every budget. These all perspectives should be given importance while talking about the relationship of Turkmenistan and Pakistan.
Recently Turkmenistan and Pakistan have signed an intergovernmental agreement on abolition of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports. The results of the recent negotiations in Islamabad were reported by Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov. The agenda of the Turkmen-Pakistani political and economic consultations included the issues of interstate cooperation. Bilateral relations between Turkmenistan-Pakistan is now on the rollercoaster due to which prospects of greater socio-economic prosperity, energy cooperation, direct air-link and above all better political understanding are bright. TAPI would speed up and open many new avenues of mutual cooperation.
Writer is Staff Reporter Melange for Europe & Coordinator Center of Pakistan & International Relations (COPAIR)