After the dissolution of USSR, Tajikistan became an independent country in 1991. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize Tajikistan. Subsequently in 1992, formal diplomatic ties between both Muslim and brotherly countries were established which began a new chapter of Pakistan-Tajikistan Relations. Tajikistan, a Central Asian state previously part of the Soviet Union, has an area of 143,100 square kilometers with a population of about 7.1 million. Tajikistan is surrounded by countries like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Geographically, the 16 kilometers long, Wakhan Corridor makes Pakistan and Tajikistan separated. The Wakhan Corridor is a narrow belt of Afghanistan that borders China and makes Pakistan and Tajikistan apart.
It is also pertinent to mention that the presence of the Wakhan corridor is a reflection of the 19th century geopolitical challenge between the British Raj in India and the Russian Empire. Afghanistan became the buffer between the two powers and therefore no previously territory under the British Raj entered Central Asia unwaveringly. Relations between Pakistan and Tajikistan based on cultural, religious and historical links. Contemporary Tajikistan and Pakistan were once under the regime of Umayyad Caliphate in the 8th century. Far along, few parts of Pakistan and the whole region of modern Tajikistan fell under the Persian Samanid rule. Additionally, the official language of the Mughal Empire was Persian, and then India was significantly inclined by the Arab and Persian cultures.
One of the foremost and essential components of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to mature and uphold heartfelt and pleasant brotherly relations with Muslim countries. Pakistan and Tajikistan share mutual membership in numerous multilateral organizations. As Muslim countries, both are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC. The two countries are also members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as the Heart of Asia-Istanbul process. Such collective groupings between Pakistan and Tajikistan permit plentiful opportunities for communication to take place between the leaders, delegates, and diplomats from both sides on the sidelines of several summits. This is therefore an influential factor to the affectionate relations between Pakistan and Tajikistan.
Currently Pak-Tajik relations are moderately stable and have immense potential for more expansion. As compared with China and Russia, presence of Pakistan in Tajikistan is much lesser in scale; still, encouraging economic dynamics validates potential prospects for consolidating trade partnership. To support this notion it is imperative to notice that Pakistan is one of the top trade partners of Tajikistan with overall turnover of 56, 3 million USD in 2019. The Geographical factor is also very important since Pakistan is close to Central Asia and consequently for Tajikistan, the straight and shortest route to the sea goes through Pakistan. Therefore, the distance from the capital Dushanbe to the port of Karachi in Pakistan is 2720 km, while to the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran it is 3400 km. the incumbent government in Pakistan is hopeful and trying its best to turn Pakistan into a transport hub for Central Asian countries. To attain this goal, development of the deep-water port of Gwadar is an evident and pragmatic example. Gwadar port is already operational and facilitating Afghanistan’s trade with the global markets. Pakistan is prepared to extend its support to Tajikistan through this seaport.
While we have a look of the current situation, for Tajikistan, the transit of goods through the land of Turkmenistan in recent years has been challenging in many ways, which does not have access to the open sea, therefore the route through Pakistan is a central substitute. Tajikistan is the closest Central Asian country to Pakistan; consequently, it is Pakistan’s gateway to Central Asia. A very noteworthy initiative that binds Pakistan and Tajikistan together is the CASA-1000 project (Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Program) which is one of the shortest connections between South Asia and Central Asia. CASA-1000 is a breakthrough energy export treaty between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. As Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan produce electricity with the use of hydropower, which is why even during hot summer months they enjoy a surplus of electricity but unfortunately during cold winter season they suffers from energy deficits. As the additional electricity produced in summers cannot be deposited to be used in winters, much of this electricity is wasted.
In Pakistan, demand for electricity mounts during summer and the country frequently experiences shortage of it. The CASA-1000 project comprises of a transmission line that will export electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. CASA-1000 has a geopolitical prominence for Tajikistan as well. It will permit Tajikistan to affirm itself in the international arena as a country with an advanced green energy sector. This project will be Tajikistan’s manifest as an independent state that can handle international initiatives without direction of big foreign players. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not only a game changer project for Pakistan and China but for the whole region as it is a gateway to the Indian Ocean, particularly through Gwadar Port.
While many states will get advantage from the CPEC, the landlocked Central Asian states are expected to attain maximum benefit from it: with access to warm waters, they could increase their economies through trade of natural resources and foster commercial relations with world economies. Pakistan and China will also benefit from increasing engagement with Central Asian states, particularly when they will get access to their rich natural resources. Enriched regional connectivity will further fortify economic integration and collaboration in other fields among regional economies for their mutual development. However, between Central Asia and the CPEC lies Afghanistan. Afghanistan offers the direct and most cost effective route of trade and transport, but its internal security dynamics have been the utmost blockade to closer trade relations in the region.
While talking about the trade relations it is pertinent to mention that, an inter-governmental Joint Economic Commission (JEC) is alreay operational to fortify political, economic, cultural and technical assistance between the two countries. The volume of bilateral trade still need to be enhanced. Previously the target of US$500 million has been set to be attained in the next few years. The CPEC and Gwadar Port would attach Pakistan to Tajikistan through Gwadar-Peshawar-Kabul-Kunduz-Dushanbe route, Khunjrab-Kalasu-Murghab route and Chitral-Eshkhahim-Dushanbe route. These routes would reinforce economic integration and connectivity of Pakistan with Tajikistan.
In January 2015, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan signed a Trilateral Transit Trade Agreement (PATTTTA) to mature business opportunities by building rail and road links. Construction of the highways of Kulyab-Khorug-Kulma-Karakoram, the Istiqlal Tunnel, four bridges between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, rebuilding of Dushanbe-Qurgantepa highway and also the building of Dushanbe–Nurabad–Jirgatal-Saritosh are few of the positive steps for the communication improvement between the two countries. The recognition of these projects would aid Tajikistan’s easy access to the ports of Pakistan.
Similarly, Pakistan has already extended its support to Tajikistan for joining a quadrilateral transit trade agreement. In short, Tajikistan has become a common business destination for Pakistani entrepreneurs who have capitalized more than $14 million in Tajikistan since 2007. Around 40 Pakistani companies are registered in Tajikistan who are contributing their expertise in sectors like agriculture and textile. During the recent visit of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan cordially welcomed Tajikistan to enhance cooperation and bilateral ties. According to a joint statement unleashed after the meeting, Prime Minister Imran informed President Rahmon about the Gwadar seaport’s operationalization and offered Tajikistan the use of Pakistani ports under CPEC project.
PM Imran highlighted that Pakistani seaports are the most resourceful and cost-effective linking to Central Asian nations, such as Tajikistan. It was observed that augmenting economic relations are few of the priorities both countries want to work on in future. Other areas of cooperation were also discussed during the visit of Tajik President. President Rahmon anticipated establishing a joint working group in order to resolve transit trade problems at earliest. He also requested Afghanistan to attend its conference to improve trade and commerce, with the aim of including the rest of the region. Both head of states articulated about the prospect of Afghanistan decentralizing into civil conflict after the United States’ withdrawal from the war-torn nation as such scenario can affect the whole region.
During the current visit of Tajik President several MOUs singed between both countries that includes, academic Cooperation Agreement between Tajik Technical University named after academician MS Osimi and Indus University of Pakistan, agreement on Cooperation between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agreement on Cooperation between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Memorandum of Understanding between Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tajikistan, Memorandum of Understanding between Agency for State Financial Control and Struggle against Corruption of the Republic of Tajikistan and National Accountability Bureau of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan for Cooperation in the Field of Prevention and Liquidation of Emergency Situations, Agreement between the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan in the field of Art and Culture, Memorandum of Understanding between Tajik Institute of Languages, Dushanbe Tajikistan and National University of Modern Languages of Pakistan, Memorandum of Understanding between Technological University of Tajikistan and Comsats University Islamabad, Agreement on International Road Transport, Cooperation Programme between Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tajikistan and Joint Declaration on Next Steps in Building Strategic Partnership for Regional Solidarity and Integration. Hopefully, the cooperation between the both Nations will be more strengthen with the passage of time.