Pakistan, Uzbekistan agree to boost connectivity via Afghanistan

PM Imran, President Mirziyoyev vow to lobby for unfreezing Afghan assets

APP March 04, 2022


Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to enhance connectivity via Afghanistan not only by road or air but also through train, which would connect Pakistan with Central Asian states and vice versa, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday after talks with visiting Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

Imran told a joint press conference with the visiting dignitary that the two countries agreed to further deepen their bilateral ties by promoting pilgrimage tourism and cultural exchanges besides reviving the traditional cooperative partnership.

The bilateral ties were discussed in a one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Mirziyoyev as well as their delegation-level talks, which also focused on issues such as the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and Islamophobia.

At the joint press stakeout, the two leaders expressed satisfaction over the increasing volume of bilateral trade and interaction between the two business communities. Imran said that bilateral trade had increased by 50% last year and the joint ventures had increased five-fold.

“Both sides have agreed to reinvigorate the [bilateral] relationship not only by enhancing trade but also through cultural linkages,” the prime minister told reporters. “Both countries have a shared culture and history.”

He told the media that they would also attend an interaction between the two business communities on Friday (today) to discuss ways to further enhance the trade and investment cooperation.

Thanking the Uzbek president for presenting a book revealing around 3,000 common words between Urdu and Uzbek languages, the prime minister said both the countries had also decided to produce a film on Uzbek-origin Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Babar.

The prime minister also apprised the visiting dignitary of Pakistan’s stance on the unabated human rights abuses in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), urging the international community to play its role in the enforcement of the multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

While discussing Islamophobia, the two leaders agreed that any desecration of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) could not be allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Imran appreciated the statements of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, opposing the desecration of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) on the pretext of the freedom of speech.

The prime minister said that both sides had agreed to enhance connectivity via Afghanistan. “The connectivity projects will not only benefit the people of Pakistan and Uzbekistan but also Afghanistan who have suffered a lot during the last 40 years,” Imran added.

He announced that both Pakistan and Uzbekistan had decided to lobby for unfreezing the Afghan government’s assets in foreign banks, besides discussing ways, which could lead towards recognition of the Afghan government.

Read Pakistan, Uzbekistan to sign PTA

In his remarks, President Mirziyoyev appreciated Pakistan’s economic, political and cultural development under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He added that both the countries were not only building strategic partnership but also a bridge between South Asia and Central Asia.

Mirziyoyev thanked Pakistan for warm hospitality to him and his delegation. He added that his long-awaited visit was delayed due to the Covid pandemic; however, it was taking place on the 30th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic relations.

“The economic and trade cooperation was growing fast between Uzbekistan and Pakistan,” Mirziyoyev observed. He underscored the huge existing opportunities for cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, and science and technology.

The signing of the preferential trade agreement was another important step in strengthening the bilateral cooperation, he said, adding that the two sides resolved to start work on the train project connecting Pakistan with Uzbekistan via Afghanistan.

He told the media that both sides expressed concerns over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and urged the international community to pay attention to the situation including the unfreezing of the assets. He expressed Uzbekistan’s full support for Pakistan’s candidacy for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council for 2025-2026.

Joint declaration

The joint declaration, issued after the meeting said that the two leaders considered all aspects of bilateral relations, paying special attention to the development of cooperation in the trade and economic sphere, science and technology, culture, education, security and defence and regional connectivity.

They also exchanged views on issues of global and regional importance, intensifying contacts at international forums, including the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) and Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

The joint declaration said that President Mirziyoyev expressed his country’s readiness to provide support to Pakistan’s initiative to create a poverty alleviation mechanism during the period of Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the SCO.

Mirziyoyev shared his vision on the “New Uzbekistan” strategy and stated that the reform process was aimed at the socio-economic interests of the people of Uzbekistan and the region as a whole. “The strategy lays emphasis on strengthening economic diplomacy and sets tasks to bring existing relations with South Asia, in particular with Pakistan, to a new level of strategic partnership,” the joint declaration added.

The two leaders stressed the importance of developing institutionalised cooperation between the two countries within the five main pillars of Pakistan’s “Vision Central Asia” – political and diplomatic, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence and people-to-people relations.

The leaders warmly recalled the positive agreements in the areas of trade and investment, customs, military education, culture and tourism, as well as visa facilitation for representatives of business community and tourist groups, reached during the visit of Prime Minister Imran to Uzbekistan in 2021.

They welcomed the signing of the bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and the enforcement of the Transit Trade Agreement. “These agreements are the sign of the beginning of a new era in bilateral trade relations and will serve to increase mutual trade by utilizing existing opportunities.”

The leaders reaffirmed the important role of the Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project for the future of the region. It was agreed to evolve a joint “Road Map”, which includes measures to develop a feasibility study for the project and start construction work on both sides.

Read more Uzbek president to arrive in Islamabad for two-day visit on Thursday

“They acknowledged that the Trans-Afghan Railway project is the most economical and shortest route connecting Central Asia with Pakistan’s ports of Karachi, Gwadar and Qasim,” the declaration said, adding: “The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of air, rail and road connectivity,” it added.

“Recognising with satisfaction the steady development of bilateral cooperation in security and defence, the two leaders agreed to intensify dialogue and constructive cooperation between the armed forces of both countries, including through inter-staff talks and joint military exercises, training and exchange of professional experience,” the joint declaration continued.

The two leaders expressed deep concern on the continuing trend of Islamophobia and supported the OIC efforts to mark the International Day against Islamophobia on March 15. They also agreed to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The importance of economic assistance to Afghanistan and un-freezing of Afghan foreign bank reserves was also stressed. Prime Minister Imran briefed the Uzbek side on the latest developments in Jammu and Kashmir. The two leaders stressed the importance of cooperation and dialogue to resolve all outstanding regional disputes and achieve the goal of lasting peace in the region and beyond.

Signing ceremony

Prime Minister Imran and Uzbek President Mirziyoyev, who signed the Joint Declaration “Next Step in the Strategic Partnership”, later witnessed the signing ceremony for various agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), including the bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).

The agreement on cooperation in the field of Television and Radio Broadcasting between the National Television and Radio Company of Uzbekistan and the Pakistan Television Corporation was signed by Minister for Information Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and Uzbek Minister for Culture Ozodbek Nazabekov.

The MoU between the Uzbek Ministry of Tourism and Sports and Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony for the promotion of Pilgrimage Tourism was signed by Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri and Uzbek Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov.

The MoU on cooperation in the field of environment and climate change was signed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Investment and Foreign Trade Sardar Umurzakov.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood and Uzbek Minister for Investment and Foreign Trade signed the Pakistan-Uzbekistan Preferential Trade Agreement. The Action Plan of practical measures (roadmap) to further develop cooperation in the fields of security was signed by National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yousaf and Secretary to the Uzbek Security Council Viktor Makhmudov.

Also read Pakistan, Uzbekistan pledge to upgrade ties

The MoU between Pakistan’s Ministry of Railways and the Ministry of Transport of Uzbekistan was signed by Pakistan Railways Chairman Habibur Rehman Gilani and Uzbek Minister for Transport Ilkhom Makhkamov.

Other MoUs were about cooperation between Khokimiyat of Tashkent City of Uzbekistan and the Administration of Islamabad City of Pakistan; Surkhandarya Region of Uzbekistan and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

President Mirziyoyev arrived here Thursday on two-day state visit. He was received by Prime Minister Imran Khan as he alighted from his special aircraft at the Nur Khan Airbase.

A smartly turned-out static guards saluted the visiting dignitary as the national flags of Pakistan and Uzbekistan were lined.


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