The deep-rooted historic, cultural, economic, and religious ties of both countries underpin the bilateral relations of Pakistan and Turkmenistan. Pakistan was among the first few countries to formally recognize the independent and sovereign status of Turkmenistan and since its independence, both nations are working together in the sphere of diplomacy, economy, science and technology, and numerous other areas. The epitome of shared vision and aspiration of augmenting bilateral ties is evident from up to 50 agreements and MoU’s signed between both states.
At the present stage, the bilateral ties of Turkmenistan-Pakistan are characterized by a mutual willingness to enhance mutually advantageous partnerships.
From the cooperation at regional and international forums, like the UN, SCO, OIC, etc., Ashgabat and Islamabad seem to share the same vision and understanding of global issues. While observing the underlying resolve in bolstering the bilateral ties, the socio-economic interaction, connectivity projects, and regional peace and stability are the leading factors of relations between both states. Most of the formal agreements signed between both nations in the last 28 years are directed towards enhancing bilateral trade, cultural exchange, educational cooperation, technology transfer, and connecting the landlocked region of Central Asian Republics with Pakistan.
The current Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Pakistan recently said in an interview that, “being a landlocked country, Turkmenistan considered Gwadar port and Karachi port very important to promote its trade and exports with other countries.”
Turkmenistan is naturally endowed with huge gas and oil resources, however, due to its landlocked geographic setting and hostile environment in the neighboring country (Afghanistan), the country is not able to exploit its natural resources to the optimum level. However, Turkmenistan is making efforts to export gas, oil, and electricity to the regional partners for the last three decades. It is also evident from the Joint Gas and Oil Pipeline Agreement (1995), MoU of establishing a Gas Pipeline between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan (1996), MoU of establishing an Energy Interconnection System between Pakistan and Turkmenistan (1999), and Gas Pipeline Agreements between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (TAPI) in 2008 and 2010.
In terms of economic ties, both countries realize the potential of trade and investments and economic cooperation between both states. This is why both, Pakistan and Turkmenistan are focusing on connectivity through roads, railways, and air links via Afghanistan, and retained several MoU’s and agreements between their ministries and chamber of commerce. Both have established a Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation in 2015, and Turkmenistan-Pakistan Joint Business Council (JBC) in 2019. Moreover, to yield a strong economic bond, both have inked agreements to avoid double taxation on income and to share financial intelligence related to money laundering and terror financing. Similarly, with the completion of the first phase of CPEC, the prospects of collaboration in the field of the blue economy and enhancing the volume of bilateral trade and goodwill are increasing.
As the Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Pakistan Atadjan Movlamov said, “Pakistan was poised to become a hub of economic activities in the region and Turkmenistan was keen to strengthen its trade ties with it. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan should consider signing a transit trade agreement.”
Another converging area is the energy sector, as South Asia is an energy deficient region whereas Central Asia produces surplus energy. To meet the burgeoning energy demand of South Asia, specifically of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, Turkmenistan can provide up to 3,000MW electricity with almost half the price of electricity generated in these countries. Similarly, the country can be a source of meeting the high demands of LPG and natural gas of the South Asian region. This converging interest could be coupled through connectivity provided by BRI and CPEC routes.
Turkmenistan discussed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Gwadar and Turkmen ports in a Joint Governmental Commission meeting.
In the last few years, education, and science, and technology also became the focus area of cooperation between both brotherly nations. The academic collaboration and agreements signed between higher education commission institutes and think tanks include MoU’s between National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Pakistan, Magtymguly Turkmen State University Turkmenistan, Institute of Peace and Development Studies, Center for Policy Studies COMSATS, Institute of International Relations MOFA Turkmenistan, and University of Humanities and Development. Similarly, both states have inked an agreement of cultural cooperation for the year 2012-14.
A glance at the 28 years of bilateral relations, high-level exchanges, and common stance of both states in international fora depicts that both, Pakistan and Turkmenistan are committed to regional peace and development and share a strong political will. However, both states should find new avenues of cooperation and capitalize on the CPEC, BRI, and Turkmenistan Caspian Seaport connectivity to further their ties.