Pakistan and Uzbekistan have profound fraternal relations and share deep-rooted historic and cultural linkages. The historic bond between both nations is apparent from the shared Muslim identity and legacy of Islamic scholars of the Islamic Golden Age, such as Imam Bukhari, Imam Tirmzi, Al-Khorezmi, Al-Farabi, Al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, and many others. Besides, the commonality of arts, culture, traditions and values of both nations further solidify the relationship between both Asian nations, which were part of the ancient silk route. Another historic relation both Pakistan and Uzbekistan share is the descent of the great Mughal Emperor His Majesty Zaheer-ud-Din Muhammad Babur who was born in the Ferghana Valley, which is in present-day Uzbekistan. The interconnection of both nations is also evident from their national languages having more than 4000 common words.
After Uzbekistan’s independence from USSR in 1991, Pakistan was one of the first few countries to recognize Uzbekistan and ever since both nations have expanded their area of cooperation in the economic, cultural and diplomatic spheres. Both countries are members of several international and regional organizations such as the United Nations (UN), Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Apart from that, the receptiveness of both nations is also evident from the marks both countries are making through the joint ministerial meetings held regularly.
Uzbekistan is one of the two double landlocked countries of the world bordering five other landlocked Central Asian nations and Afghanistan –a South Asian landlocked country. However, in the past, this region has remained the hub of the world’s economic attention because of the great Silk Road, making it the great centre of excellence for travellers from across the world.
Although Uzbekistan is an agriculture-based economy but the country is endowed with enormous natural resources like rich reservoirs of gold, minerals and natural gas, and earns large sums of foreign exchange through exporting these natural resources. Recently, Switzerland has become a major importer of Uzbek good and resources accounting for transactions of more than $2.8billion in 2016.
Uzbekistan is also famous for its cotton exports, and the matter of fact is that it is the fifth-largest cotton exporter in the world. In the ECO Summit, the Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Mr Ulugbak Rozukulov has vowed to further the bilateral ties through enhancing trade up to $300million in the next few years and increasing cooperation in the field of agriculture –which is the forte of Uzbekistan. Another nascent development in this regard is the establishment of the Pak-Uzbek Trade House, which will help in increasing the agriculture yield by introducing new agriculture-related technologies in Pakistan.
However, amid the indicative potential of trade between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, the import/export trade between both nations remained minimal over the period. Pakistan has exported textile, sports goods, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, and photography equipment to Uzbekistan using its export potential of $9.14 million. Whereas Uzbekistan exports cotton, plastics, salts and earthly stones, chemicals and fertilizers to Pakistan but over the period their exports volume has dropped significantly, such as $24.7 million in 2007 to $3.22 million in 2016. Even though both nations have signed about 56 bilateral agreements and MOU’s since 1991 and their leaders vowed to boost economic activity the trade volume is minimal but it can be ameliorated by an efficient road or train connectivity between both, which at the moment, is out of commission due to turmoil in Afghanistan. An expert opinion is that there is a dire need to establish a joint business council and joint commission between both nations to further move forward the processes of business development.
However, with the promising developments of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), QTTA and BRI, there is an opportunity for both countries to increase their trade volumes. Last year, Uzbekistan has agreed to become part of the Quadrilateral Tariff and Trade Agreement (QTTA) and with this development, the volume of bilateral trade is expected to reach up to $1billion in the next five years. Although Afghanistan, a landlocked country like Uzbekistan provides the shortest and most accessible route for connectivity between South and Central Asia, but the conflict foreshadowed this development. This is the reason that both nations have joined hands and share their aspirations for the promotion of peace, stability, and progress in Afghanistan.
Partnership and urge for peace of Pakistan are Uzbekistan is evident from their efforts and undertakings in pacifying Afghanistan. Both nations have taken substantial measures, such as in 2019, Uzbekistan hosted the Taliban delegation in their country and Pakistan has been actively advocating for security in Afghanistan for years. Through peace in Afghanistan, there are prospects of increased trading activities between South Asia and Central Asia, and both Pakistan and Uzbekistan will be the primary beneficiaries of this interchange due to their geographic positioning. However, due to the protracted peace talks and bleak prospects of stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan and its Central Asian partners have chalked down an alternative route bypassing Afghanistan for bolstering trade, called Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA).
Uzbekistan’s entry into QTTA is of immense importance because it will be connected with the larger agenda of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and revival of the ancient silk route by China, which in turn will connect several regions of the world and enhance economic interdependence.
In a trilateral meeting, both Pakistan and Uzbekistan, along with Afghanistan, has recently agreed to build a multi-billion dollars railway connectivity project of 600-kilometres, which will connect Tashkent and Kabul to Peshawar, Karachi and Gawadar. This project is expected to complete in the next five years and will fetch energy from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan through the Surkhon-Puli Humri high voltage electricity line. Along with this, another project includes a fibre optic line for high-speed internet connectivity. On one end, this project will allow the landlocked countries, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, and access to the ports of Pakistan, while on other hand, it opens opportunities for Pakistan to reach the markets of the Commonwealth of Independent States through railway lines. A request for a loan worth $4.8billion is sent to the international financial institutions by three countries.
Pakistan and Uzbekistan are also cooperating in the field of education and the epitome of this cooperation are the establishment of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent. Similarly, the publication of the Urdu-Uzbek Dictionary is another relevant development in this regard by the academics of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Uzbekistan, which has a special Urdu department. Pakistan facilitates the Uzbek officials through training them at the Pakistan Foreign Services Academy and National Defense University.
In a nutshell, all these interregional connectivity projects will give pave the path for increased trade, exchange of science and technology, culture and arts and ultimately uplifting the overall socio-economic condition of the people of these regions.
In a memorial ceremony, the President COPAIR Ms Amna Malik and Ambassador of Uzbekistan H.E. Aibek Arif Usmanov presented a tribute to the Great Mughal Emperor King Zaheer-ud-Din Muhammad Babur on his 538 anniversary.
H.E. Aibek Arif Usmanov, the Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Pakistan showed his affection towards Pakistani people by calling them Jigars which in the Uzbek language mean relatives. His Excellency said that Babur’s legacy is the genuine part of Turkic, Persian and Islamic Renaissance in South Asia and it belongs definitely to Pakistan, Uzbekistan and all the countries in Central Asia as well as Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey. He also commended the recent visit the Governor Punjab Muhammad Sawar Chaudhary to Ferghana, Uzbekistan, which is Babur’s homeland, and highlighted the success of the trilateral meeting held last week in Tashkent where Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan signed the Road map of railway connectivity. He endorsed that it is the result of our close cooperation that we are not only getting along in the economic, transport, and scientific domains but also supporting each other in cultural and humanitarian programs. H.E. concluded by saying that the contribution of Pakistan is pivotal in restoration and furthering cultural and historic ties and the legacy of Babur and his ancestors is the most brilliant part of our past, present and future’s endeavours.
Ms Amna Malik said that His Majesty Zaheer-ud-din Babar –the Great Mughal Emperor – was from the valley of Farghana and he was a loyal son of Uzbekistan. She said that Emperor Babar was a visionary leader who laid the foundation of the Mughal Empire and instituted various political and economic reforms in the region. He is known as the “Man of Wars and Words”. Ms Malik while commending the extraordinary achievements of Babar said that he has a zeitgeist appeal beyond the region and the translation of Babur Nama (an autobiography of Babur) in several languages supports this fact. She underlined that Babur was an exemplary leader, reformer and military strategist and his dreams of peace and harmony, and regional connectivity are now realized through fraternal ties of Uzbekistan and Pakistan. She concluded by saying that the Emperor has a special place in the hearts of the people of Pakistan and Uzbekistan and will always be remembered as the hero of the Central Asian and South Asian region. President COPAIR Amna Malik and Research Associate Awais Siddique also presented a shield to His Excellency Aibek Arif Usmanov.