Uzbekistan and Pakistan: Drivers of longterm and beneficial connectivity

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Mohammad Ali Tipu
I would like to take this opportunity to focus on the Future of our two regions South Asia and Central Asia and express my confidence that the Future of our brotherly countries and nations lies with the multifaceted intra-trade, transport links as well as educational, touristic and people to people connectivity.
Let me stress that such strategical approach is not only accepted as the way forward for our countries and nations but also is actively promoted by our country’s governments, experts community and most importantly by our young generation.
As its logically emanates from the closeness of cultures and religion traditions old carawan’s road linkages of the Central Asia with modern Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh and of course Afghanistan.
The rich scientific and cultural legacies of such great scholars as Abu Ali Ibn Sina, Al-Ferghany, Al-Faraby, Al-Khwarazmy, Abu Raihan Beruni and Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur, Alloma Muhammad Iqbal are considered to be a common heritage of our two regions.
The brilliant works of such classics of our national literatures as Alloma Iqbal, Alisher Navoi, Mirza Golib, Khosrow Dehlavi, Abdurakhman Jami, are well-known all over the world.
The period of our interactions were brightly manifested during the era of Ghandhara, Harappa civilizations, Ghaznevids empire with the regions of Samarqand, Bukhara, Khwarazm, Termiz which are the well known centers of Islamic culture enlighment, science and knowledge.
I’m sure that all Pakistanies are well aware of the common great heritage of the such dynasties like Amir Taymur’s, Zakhiriddin Muhammad Babar’s (from Ferghana and Samarqand regions of Uzbekistan).
The great successors of Bukharys, Taymurs, Barlas, Termizi, Mirsas in Pakistan had made an enormous contribution to our connectivity, the promotion of peace, freedom and mutual understanding among our nations.
Unfortunately, in the nineteenth century, due to historical circumstances, the genuine connectivity between the two neighboring regions was disrupted. Between Central and South Asia various obstacles emerged, borders were closed, tensions became more acute which have frequently led to conflicts. The era of cooperation and understanding has given way to a period of confrontation and mistrust.
We have been still feeling its negative consequences – there are no effective trans-boundary routes, the trade-economic ties are poorly developed and the potential of the cultural-humanitarian relations has not been put into effect in full.
The bilateral meetings of Leaders of Uzbekistan and Pakistan from 2015 up to date gave an important impetus for the revival of the dynamic dialogue between our countries.
There is a great interest of Pakistan in being as a hub for transport corridors and industrial development as well as reaching to the markets of Uzbekistan and all the Central Asian countries and even far to Euroasian continent using the railways and road connections.
So the rapid development of Uzbek-Pakistani relations meets the long-term interests of not only our two countries, but also has a positive impact on strengthening security, developing trade, economic, communication and humanitarian ties in our regions.
Today Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan are actively cooperating in the implementation of joint economic and infrastructure projects. One of these is the project for the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif–Kabul–Peshawar trans-Afghan railway, the prospects for which to become part of the New Silk Road have already taken shape.
The connectivity approach of Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev
First step of my President was the active promotion of confidence building measures, security, stability and economic integration processes in the Central Asia, as a priority direction of foreign policy of Uzbekistan.
At the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, a new format of high-level meetings – the Consultative Meeting of the Heads of the Central Asian countries, was created for strengthening political confidence and mutual solidarity in Central Asia. As a result, a completely new political environment was created in the region.
The proactive regional policy brought the opportunity for the active relations with developed foreign countries and international organizations, this process is going on reaching a new level, the domains of the cooperation have significantly expanded.
Next step for Uzbekistan, which is double landlocked country, was the development of partnership in political sphere, trade and industrial cooperation with the countries of South Asia. In this regard President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and the Government of Uzbekistan has paid special attention to Uzbek-Pakistani relations.
In 2015 the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr.Mian Nawaz Sharif have been invited to Uzbekistan and successful and substantial meetings in Tashkent had laid the foundation to connectivity projects between our countries.
Just in last two years our Leaders – President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and former Prime Minister Imran Khan have held 9 online and offline fruitful talks for the implementation of connectivity projects.
In July 2021 former PM of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan was in Tashkent with official visit along with participation in the International Conference «Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities» initiated by the President in Tashkent.
This year in March President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev was in Islamabad as a part of historical state visit and the Declaration of the strategic partnership between our brotherly countries was signed.
During last 2 months 2022, the Foreign offices of two countries has arranged two fruitful high-level meetings of our leaders – President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have successfully interacted in Samarqand (during the SCO Summit) and Astana (Kazakhstan, SICA Summit).
Only during this year the ministers, secretaries and experts of different ministries and entities of Uzbekistan and Pakistan have held more than 160 bilateral off-line and on-line interactions (including the negotiations in the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Uzbekistan).
For sure the active political dialog, further expansion of cooperation between our Goverments, ministries and business communities is in the very interest of both countries and regions.
The drivers of long term partnership
The active phase of trade-economic relations between Uzbekistan and Pakistan, its intensification started over the last 5 years when governments of both states concentrated on mutually beneficial geo-economic partnership.
If the trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Pakistan amounted in 2017 $36 mln, in 2018 it became $ 98 million, in 2020 it amounted around $120 mln and 2021 reached $180 mln. These figures shows that Uzbek-Pak trade volumes are bigger than the Pakistan’s trade turnover with all other Central Asian countries.
Even despite the hard pandemic situation of the last year, we could keep such high indicator of trade without any decrease. This year in 9 months, the volume of mutual trade reached $154.5 mln (growth is 127.5%), of which Uzbekistan exports amounted to $72 mln, and Pakistan has delivered goods and commodities worth $82.5 mln.
As the result our Governments has successfully signed and now are implementing the Transit trade, Preferential trade agreements, as well as custom’s and intrabanks cooperation MOU’s in order to increase the trade turnover up to $0,5 bln and aim is to reach $1 bln trade in coming years, Inshalla.
Uzbekistan now is the largest trade partner of Pakistan in Central Asia and Pakistan been listed among top 10 main foreign trade partners for Uzbekistan.
Pakistani importers are interested in Uzbek textile yarns, petrochemical products, food stuff, pure Uzbek silk products and agricultural machinery. Uzbek importers are receiving Pakistani textile and leather garments, pharmaceutical products, chemicals, food items, agricultural  products.
Government of Uzbekistan have created favorable and attractive investment climate for Pakistani business community and around 177 joint venture companies are successfully operating in Uzbekistan.
Two sides has started to work out the joint manufacturing for agricultural machinery and home appliances products with Uzbek investments in Pakistan. Implementation of these projects in Pakistan can help for the mechanization and modernization of agricultural sector and decrease of the prices for electronic products within the country.
Additionally, according the joint roadmap Pakistan Afghanistan and Uzbekistan has successfully conducted field survey of the routes of Termez –Peshawar railway line.
For these purposes, a free trade zone, the “International Cargo Center Termez”, is being created in the territory of Termez bordering with Afghanistan, with an appropriate logistics infrastructure and a special visa regime for Afghan and Pakistani entrepreneurs.
On March 31, 2022, a meeting of the trilateral working group was held in Termez city with the participation of the government delegations of Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the representatives of the relevant custom authorities, transport and trade companies of 3 countries.
The expansion of interregional trade through Afghanistan will bring economic benefits to the country in the form of transit fees. The Trans-Afghan railway can carry up to 20 million tons of cargo per year, and transportation costs will decrease by 30-35% and timing from 2 weeks upto 3-4 days.
Thus the construction of the railway will significantly reduce the time and cost of transporting goods between the countries of South Asia and Europe through Central Asia.
The very important connectivity project has been launched during the SCO Summit in Samarqand in September 2022 when the agreement on Uzbekistan–Kyrgyzstan–China railway construction has been signed.
The importance and effectiveness of this project will be multiplied  significantly increase since it will connect China with Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries in the shortest way (433 km). This railway route can be synchronized effectively with the Termez–Peshawar railway line and it will significantly increase the volume of transportation due to cargo from China to the countries of Central and South Asia and back.
The ongoing implementation of two railway projects will be a real game-changer for Central and South Asia as it will link Chinese economy with Central Asia, our good neighbor Afghanistan and connecting with the Pakistani sea ports like Gwadar and Karachi to ensure full regional connectivity strategy.
Pakistani sea ports can provide for Central Asian states good opportunity to further expand their export geography to the whole world market.
It should be noted that all countries in Central Asia are interested in increasing export volumes and diversifying their foreign trade, entering new foreign markets, as well as creating and using new transport routes.
Intraregional cooperation
In order to continue to effectively expand Pak-Uzbek bilateral economic and cultural cooperation, we also developed strategy for intra-provincial partnership.
That means, direct relations, cooperation and communications between respective territories, provinces of two states without involvement of central or federal government.
In 2021, the Hon Governor of Punjab province Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar twice had visited Uzbekistan, touring the Namangan, Bukhara and Tashkent provinces. His business mission was an a great success as the first time in the history with opening of the Pakistan trade house the Pakistani flag was raised in the heart of Ferghana in Namangan city. The first intra-provincial business forum, as well as “B2G” and “B2B” meetings were also conducted.
Pakistan’s delegation was warmly welcomed in Tashkent by the Hon Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Mr.Abdulla Aripov and two sides has in depth discussed the implementation of signed Agreement on intra-provincial trade, investment and industrial cooperation between Namangan and Punjab provinces.
Last year 2022 Governorate and Sarhad Chamber of KPK province has established longterm intra-provincial cooperation with Termez city and Syrhandarya region of Uzbekistan.
I believe that it is a high time – encouraged by an enormous historical, scientific and spiritual-cultural heritage of our peoples, our countries should  consolidate joint efforts using the complementarity of economies and intellectual capacities which will undoubtedly have a powerful synergy effect.
In conclusion let me stress again that the history and geo-economical imperatives are self has created the favourable conditions for the strengthening of a fruitful cooperation and connectivity between the Pakistan and Uzbekistan and regions of Central and South Asia.

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