Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomes Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Islamabad.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomes Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Islamabad. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan and Uzbekistan officials signed several agreements to “begin a new era” of partnership by strengthening cooperation in economic and security domains.

The agreements were signed on Thursday during the two-day visit of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Pakistan with a high-level delegation comprising cabinet members and businessmen. The visit coincides with the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Strategic partnership

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a joint declaration to strengthen the strategic partnership. Khan and Mirziyoyev held one-on-one dialogue as well as delegation-level talks in Islamabad to discuss all aspects of bilateral relations, particularly cooperation in trade and economic sphere, security, defence and regional connectivity, science and technology, culture and education. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev shared his vision on the “New Uzbekistan” strategy which emphasises strengthening economic diplomacy and improving relations with South Asia, in particular with Pakistan, to a new level of strategic partnership.

They agreed to develop cooperation between the two countries within the five main pillars of Pakistan’s ‘Vision Central Asia’ including political and diplomatic, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence and people-to-people relations.

Uzbek president expressed the “readiness to provide support to Pakistan’s initiative to create a poverty alleviation mechanism.”

Khan and Mirziyoyev earlier met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Dushanbe in September 2021 and also in July last year when the Pakistani prime minister visited Uzbekistan.

MoUs and agreements signed

Pakistan and Uzbekistan signed at least eight MoUs including referential trade agreement, security cooperation, railways and tourism as well as c operation between the administrations of Tashkent and Islamabad and another between the Surkhandarya region of Uzbekistan and Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Trade ties

The two leaders welcomed the signing of a preferential trade agreement between Uzbekistan and Pakistan and the implementation of the transit trade agreement. “These agreements are the sign of the beginning of a new era in bilateral trade relations” reads the joint statement. The bilateral trade has increased fivefold despite the pandemic and grew by another 50 per cent last year. They also agreed to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and emphasized that peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential to advance connectivity projects which will lead to regional prosperity.

Defence and security

To strengthen bilateral cooperation in security and defence sectors, the two leaders agreed to “intensify dialogue and constructive cooperation between the armed forces of both countries” through joint military exercises, training and exchange of professional experience. Uzbekistan-Pakistan joint commission on security held its first meeting in Islamabad in November 2021.

Regional connectivity

Pakistani prime minister and Uzbek president agreed on the need to “fast track measures to further expand the connectivity agenda and economic integration.” They acknowledged the key role of agreed connectivity corridors that envisage the expansion of trade links through offering investment opportunities in the transport network, power pipelines and special economic zones. They agreed to strengthen air, rail and road connectivity. The two nations would also boost tourism and business linkages with regular flights on two routes: Tashkent-Lahore and Islamabad-Tashkent.

Railway project

The two sides reaffirmed the important role of the Termez - Mazar-e-Sharif - Kabul - Peshawar railway project and acknowledged that the “Trans-AfghanRailway project is the most economical and shortest route connecting Central Asia with Pakistan’s ports of Karachi, Gwadar and Qasim.”