Pak – Uzbek Summit – Opening the Doors of Development on South & Central Asia

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Tazeen Akhtar
Editor Daily Azkaar – Monthly Pakistan in the World -Analyst Current Affairs @ Radio Pakistan – Islamabad / 13 April 2021

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Prime Minister Imran Khan are discussing the bilateral cooperation in first ever online summit between the leaders of two countries in the history of mutual relations on 14th of April 2021. It is start of the holy month of Ramazan as well that is the most sacred month for the Muslim world. The leaders will have direct interaction on the whole gamut of bilateral ties and cooperation. The summit is aimed at finding out the avenues to move forward towards common goals of sustainable development between the two countries that will pave the way to connecting South and Central Asia.

The summit is taking place on the initiative of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev who has a vision about the well being of not only his own country but the two whole regions by connecting them through all available means of transport and communication. Prime Minister Imran Khan attaches great value to Pakistan’s relations with brotherly country Uzbekistan. He reciprocated in the same spirit and warmth that proves the presence of the desire and understanding between the two leaders to accelerate the cooperation.

Foreign Minister Dr. Abdulaziz Kamilov on 10 March 2021 called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and conveyed cordial greetings of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in which he reiterated Uzbekistan’s commitment to expand bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields. Prime Minister fondly recalled his interactions with President Mirziyoyev in Beijing and Bishkek and reiterated his invitation to the Uzbek President to visit Pakistan at the earliest convenience. The two leaders had earlier met on the sidelines of 19th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of SCO Member States in Bishkek on 13-14 June 2019 and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum in Beijing on 26-27 April 2019

Pakistan and Uzbekistan have moved forward in strengthening already present cordial relations to meaningful cooperation under the leadership of President Shavkat and Prime Minister Imran. Uzbekistan is the only country in Central Asia to have direct transport with Pakistan.

Uzbekistan Air operates two flights weekly between Lahore and Tashkent. Pakistan is also expected to start PIA flights in May 2021 for Tashkent from Islamabad. Recently both countries have signed a remarkable agreement of linking the two nations with train service. Uzbekistan railway is already connecting Tashkent with Mazar e Sharif in Afghanistan. This service will be expanded to Kabul and Peshawer that is supposed to be a milestone towards multinational cooperation.

On 04 Feb 2021, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan signed a strategic plan for a mega railway project to improve regional trade and connectivity, offering the landlocked region direct access to the Arabian Sea.

Spokesperson at Foreign Ministry of Pakistan has stated that relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan are rooted deep in common faith, shared history, and cultural affinities — providing a firm foundation for increased cooperation. Besides bilateral matters, the two leaders will exchange views on key regional and international issues. They will also deliberate on enhancing mutual cooperation and coordination at international and regional fora. The Virtual Summit will provide an opportunity to further build on existing bilateral cooperation in all areas of common interest.

Press Secretary of the President of Uzbekistan Sherzod Asadov shared few days ago that During the talks, the parties will discuss the development of trade, economic and investment cooperation between the two countries, including the creation of an effective transport and communication infrastructure that will connect Central and South Asia.

“By the end of 2020, the trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Pakistan exceeded US$123 million. He added that Uzbekistan is interested in increasing trade, economic, transport and logistics cooperation with Pakistan. Uzbekistan and Pakistan are linked by a common history and religion, a similar culture. In recent years, the ties of friendship between the two peoples have been strengthening. Despite the pandemic, contacts and exchanges are actively continuing at different levels.” Mr Sherzod noted.

The two heads of the governments are expected to deliberate on all spheres of common interests and mutual benefit. The sectors that can be discussed include connectivity, communication, parliament level exchanges, trade, investments, agriculture, education, university level cooperation and establishment of chairs there for research , science , defence, tourism, particularly ziyorat tourism. Stability in Afghanistan is the priority of both countries. The two leaders will talk on the peace process in Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan is interested to work on breaking the language barriers as well. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has special attention to understanding of Urdu and Pashtu languages.

Certainly language is the first when two people and nations meet for knowing and understanding each other. How much importance Uzbekistan attaches to enhancing the mutual bonds with Government and people of Pakistan can be estimated from the work on the promotion of Urdu and Pashtu there. Pashtu has been selected because most of the Baburid Dynasty was engaged with the people of Pashtun speaking territories.

Regarding connectivity, no need to mention here how central is this to develop the regional cooperation for the betterment of all. Uzbekistan and Pakistan have worked jointly in that direction in recent months for air and railways links as mentioned above. Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan visited Pakistan recently while Pakistani officials travelled to Tashkent for follow up meetings.

Enhanced trade and regional connectivity are the cornerstones of economic growth and development. The resolve of both the leaders to forge closer ties covering trade, investments, energy, and people-to-people exchanges is appreciative. It will bring prosperity not only for the people of two countries but South and Central Asian region as well.

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