Pakistan-Uzbekistan relations in recent times are growing and cooperation is on the rise between the two important countries of South Asia and Central Asia. The recent cooperation is happening in a time where there is a change in the regional dynamics. The U.S. and China are trying to make their clout strong in Central Asia while the change of regime in Afghanistan has greatly impacted regional political dynamics. Islamabad sees the potential to connect with Uzbekistan through Afghanistan.
An agreement has been signed in February this year to develop a railroad through Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar, an important connectivity project that would boost trade between the three states and get two important regions connected in addition to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan access to Pakistani Seaports.
For two major reasons, Uzbekistan prefer Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railroad: its shortest one. Secondly, it connects the Uzbekistan-Kirghizstan-China corridor with Europe and South Asia. Among other reasons, the U.S.-Iran rivalry is also a factor because of that reason Uzbekistan want a safe passage and option. Tashkent has hugely invested in the transportation sector to connect the Iranian ports with Uzbekistan but it fears Tehran’s escalation with Washington can cost Tashkent of heavy price. Bandar Abbas is the main port Tashkent is using for its trade. Once these projects are materialized, it will add great value to the objectives of both states.
Pakistan’s strategic policy vis-à-vis Central Asia has five broad objectives: trade and connectivity, strong political link, investment, and energy sector cooperation, defense and security and people-to-people contact. Islamabad has made many endeavors since the independence of the Central Asia to get access to it yet due to Afghanistan’s precarious security situation; this plan did not come true. Now at the moment when a change has occurred in Afghanistan, Islamabad sees a ray of hope to get safe access to Central Asian states. On the other hand, Pakistan is the shortest, easiest and economical connectivity route to the Arabian Sea for Central Asian states and specifically for Uzbekistan. Islamabad is willing to help facilitate Central Asian states to engage in trade via its sea routes. Similarly, Uzbekistan and Pakistan can engage in various sectors including trade, tourism, education, health, and energy projects. Moreover, Pakistan’s renewed focus is geo-economics which can strengthen Pakistan- Uzbekistan relations. However, for the said purpose, peace in the region and particularly in Afghanistan is essential for any trade, investment, and connectivity initiative. Similarly, the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative will further bring both countries close to each other as it has to connect Pakistan with Central Asia and beyond.
On 17th may 2022, His Excellency (H.E) Mr. Oybek Arif Osmnov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Pakistan, visited center of Pakistan and International Relations. During his visit, H.E briefed about the important direction of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy and determined the resumption of cultural, historical, trade, and economic and international conferences on the regional connectivity of central Asia. H.E also informed the active participation of Uzbekistan in the framework of multilateral cooperation institutions, and international and regional organizations and gave importance to Uzbekistan’s partnership with the SCO is of particular importance. H.E highlighted the strategy implemented in the SCO space under the leadership of Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan, was based on such basic principles as constructiveness and pragmatism. It is pertinent to mention that, in 2017-2021, the President of Uzbekistan put forward about 50 important and relevant initiatives at the SCO summits which is a highly important indicator of Uzbekistan’s interest in multi-lateral cooperation through such organizations. While addressing his audiences, H.E highly emphasized the potential of tourism in advancing bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Uzbekistan. He termed Samarkand and Lahore as sister cities. He appreciated COPAIR’s imitative of Digital tourism and vowed to collaborate further in order to strengthen people to people connectivity through tourism and hospitality.
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