Pakistan and Uzbekistan are poised to play a major role in the future political and economic disposition of the region. Both states are fortunate enough to be led by visionary leaders who have the vision, to work together to uplift their countries and the region towards a brighter future. In recent times, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have strengthened their multifaceted ties in political, trade and economic, energy, communication, science and technology, educational and cultural spheres. Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan had a two-day official visit to Uzbekistan and now President Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev has arrived in Pakistan on the special invitation of Minister Imran Khan. Uzbek president’s visit is a “historic moment” for Pakistan and Uzbekistan to come closer and expedite the implementation of the vision of the two leaders to connect both states via Afghanistan. The visit is aimed at expanding trade ties and regional connectivity. During the visit, the two countries are going to sign preferential and transit trade agreements to develop Pakistan’s economic ties with Central Asian states. The visit will also expedite the implementation process of the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan mega railway project to improve regional trade and connectivity. The rail link is one of the designated rail corridors defined and planned under the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) region railways strategy. While talking about the importance of this railway project, Pakistan railway minister Azam Khan Swati said, “This trans-Afghan railway project will provide access to the Pakistani seaports and will connect to the central Asian and Eurasian railway systems,”. The $4.8 billion trans-Afghan railway line ‘Mazar-e-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar’ project comprises of 573-km long railway track and will connect Pakistan’s Peshawar city to Afghanistan’s cities of Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif all the way to Uzbekistan. The trilateral project connecting will include both passenger and cargo high-speed trains.
Pakistan and Uzbekistan are bound together by history, geography, religion, and culture. The bilateral relations between the two states were established when the republic of Uzbekistan became an independent state after the disintegration of the USSR in 1991. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Uzbekistan. The relations were initially restrained between the two countries due to the situation in Afghanistan, as both share border proximity with Afghanistan. But later, relations have been improved after the fall of the Taliban, and the death of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and under the leadership of his visionary successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Both countries have a cordial and deepening relationship as the two countries’ interests in Afghanistan have become aligned with Uzbekistan formally hosting a Taliban delegation in 2019. Now after the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, both states are again on the same page to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Islamabad sees the potential to connect with Uzbekistan through Afghanistan, in his address, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan said, “Pakistan is keen for peace in Afghanistan and considers it vital for trade connectivity among the regional countries.” Central Asian states that are rich in natural resources have immense potential and untapped opportunities for Pakistan to promote trade ties. Therefore, peaceful Afghanistan is in the favor of both states to promote bilateral or multilateral trade ties. Pakistan further wishes to gain access to Central Asian markets, while landlocked Uzbekistan to access ports on the Arabian Sea. There are huge complementarities in the economic interests of Pakistan and the Central Asian states. Connectivity is the biggest asset of Pakistan. The geographical location of Pakistan makes it the shortest, most economical, efficient, and easiest land connectivity route for Central Asia to the Arabian Sea, particularly for Uzbekistan. Pakistan is keen to facilitate Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states’ trade with the world using its seaports. Likewise, Uzbekistan is ready to facilitate Pakistan’s exports to Central Asia and beyond by providing warehousing facilities at logistically strategic locations. With a renewed focus on geo-economics, it is time for both states to come together and strengthen their bilateral relations in all fields. Pakistan is ambitious to promote ties with Uzbekistan under the five pillars of Islamabad’s “Vision Central Asia” policy based on political, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defense, and people-to-people contacts. Similarly, the two sides also recognized the immense potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for the benefit of the entire Central Asian region and beyond entailing greater connectivity and trade linkages through a network of transport, fiber optic cable, energy pipelines, and investment opportunities in its Special Economic Zones. Last but not the least, both the leaders have the vision, strategic and geo-economic interests, regional developments, geography and common aspirations for development and prosperity, reconnect the two lands for a brighter common future., political will, and determination to make it happen. Therefore, the visit of the President of Uzbekistan will lead to auspicious initiatives for a brighter future of Pakistan-Uzbekistan relations.