Prime Minister Imran Khan will travel to Tajikistan on September 16-17, 2021 to participate in the 20th Anniversary Summit of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
After the conclusion of the summit, he will also pay an official bilateral visit to Tajikistan. The prime ministers ‘inaugural visit to Tajikistan will follow quickly after President Emomali Rahmons’ very productive visit to Islamabad in June 2021. As the leaders of the two countries share common goals of peace, progress and prosperity for their people and region as a whole, the upcoming visit would go a long way in transforming the Pak-Tajik ties into a strong bond of brotherhood and strategic partnership.
Tajikistan gained independence in 1991 following the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. It is a landlocked country, with a population of around 9.5 million people. Shortly after independence, the country plunged into a bloody civil war between secular and ultra-religious forces that raged from 1992 to 1997, in which more than 100,000 Tajiks lost their lives. The civil war ended with a truce of peace and since then President Emomali Rahmon has led his country from the front to rebuild Tajikistan. Today, Tajikistan has a literacy rate of around 98 percent and it has a fairly developed infrastructure, especially in the health, education and transport sectors.
Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize Tajikistan after its independence. Geographically, the two countries are virtually neighbors, separated only by a narrow strip of the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan which in some places is only a few kilometers wide.
Pakistan aims to strengthen its engagement with the Central Asian republics. In this regard, we are working on a results-oriented, holistic and sustainable Central Asia Vision policy. This robust policy rests on five political pillars; trade and investment; energy and connectivity; security and defense; and people-to-people contacts.
Over the past three decades, the Pakistan-Tajik friendship has become an example of good neighborliness in the international political arena. To date, the two sides have signed 79 bilateral documents to institutionalize bilateral cooperation in various areas of mutual interest. As a result, the two countries are now moving towards establishing a strategic partnership. Whether it is political cooperation, defense and security, economy, culture, scientific or academic cooperation, the two sides are striving to realize the vision set by our leaders to further strengthen bilateral relations.
The two countries have formed an inter-ministerial commission and multiple joint working groups in various fields. An Interparliamentary Friendship Group and a Joint Business Council (JBC) have also been formed to strengthen bilateral relations in the respective fields.
Regarding multilateral cooperation, there is a marked convergence of views between the two countries on various regional and international issues. Besides the UN, our common membership of OIC, SCO, ECO and CICA has further intensified our bilateral cooperation through multilateral frameworks. The two countries almost invariably support each other in various international and regional forums.
On the sidelines of the Prime Ministers’ visit to Tajikistan, the very first Pakistan-Tajikistan Joint Business Forum will also be organized on September 16 in Dushanbe. Several B2B meetings are planned to create direct commercial links between the business communities of the two countries. A delegation of high-level companies from various sectors of Pakistan will arrive in Dushanbe to participate in the forum.
The leaders of the two countries realize that our bilateral economic relations do not live up to the existing political heat. According to Tajik Customs, our annual bilateral trade volume was recorded to be worth around $ 25.79 in 2020. On the one hand, this indicates the vast potential that remains to be tapped and on the other hand, it reflects volatility. and inconsistent trade flows. Much of this is due to the security situation in Afghanistan over the past decades, as most of our bilateral trade with Tajikistan goes through Afghanistan. In other words, the main obstacle to increasing our bilateral trade is the lack of direct road, rail and air connectivity. Both sides realize that increased connectivity is the key to increasing bilateral trade, people-to-people contacts and tourism. As a result, the two sides are now exploring all possibilities of resuming the direct air link between the two countries.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a very important part of China’s Belt and Road (BRI) mega initiative, is poised to put in place an ideal infrastructure and connectivity mechanism through the region and beyond. The recently envisioned rail line project connecting Pakistan to Uzbekistan via Afghanistan is also a very welcome step towards increased regional connectivity, as its completion would help connect Pakistan with other countries in Central Asia, including Tajikistan, via a rail link.
Pakistan’s important geostrategic location in the region allows it to become a natural link between the Eurasian core and the Arabian Sea. So Tajikistan is eager to connect with the outside world, especially Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, through our seaports. Likewise, Tajikistan is a gateway to Central Asia and beyond for Pakistani products.
In the field of defense and security, both Pakistan and Tajikistan regard peace as the basic condition for economic progress and prosperity and consider the threats of extremism, terrorism and transnational organized crime as the drivers of instability and violence. This shared perception has instilled in our bilateral relations a mutual desire to root out these evils from our two countries, from the region and from the world in general.
In the energy sector, CASA-1000 is a flagship project between Pakistan and Tajikistan as it envisions the transmission of surplus electricity from the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan during the summer season, when Pakistan needs it most. Under its terms, a 47 km transmission line will be established between the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan and a 750 km line between Tajikistan and Pakistan via Afghanistan. The project will be the first practical initiative to link energy-rich Central Asia to energy-poor South Asia, thereby establishing a permanent energy corridor and opening new avenues for energy trading.
As cultural and academic ties as well as people-to-people contacts bring nations closer together, the two countries take every opportunity to capitalize on shared cultural ties and build bridges between our two peoples, artists, universities and institutions. Pakistan already promotes its cultural heritage, including art, fashion and cuisine, through various exhibitions and events held from time to time in Tajikistan.
Our two peoples also share striking literary affinities because they are followers of the universal and peaceful messages of great luminaries and saints such as Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Syed Ali Hamdani, Sadruddin Ayni among others. In fact, Allama Iqbal is a household name in Tajikistan and his works are included in the academic curriculum of Tajikistan. Likewise, there are several thousand followers of Syed Ali Hamdani in Pakistan and Kashmir.
A famous Tajik scholar, Ali Muhammad Khurasani, was awarded the Pride of Performance by the President of Pakistan in 2015 for his superb work on the poetry of Allama Iqbals. A Pakistani Studies Center has been established in the Urdu Department of the Tajik National University in Dushanbe. Established through the efforts of the Pakistani Embassy in 2009, the center assists Tajik students in their research in Urdu and Pakistani studies.
Since taking the current job two years ago, I have found the Tajiks to be very generous and hospitable. They are peaceful, hardworking and industrious. All these characteristics underscore not only the rich culture and progressive nature of the Tajik nation, but also the visionary leadership of President Emomali Rahmon whose tireless efforts for the development of Tajikistan have helped his nation to take the path of peace, progress. and prosperity.
It is in this context that the two sides look forward to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Dushanbe, so that the two leaders can review the full range of bilateral relations and define a future strategy to further strengthen the Pakistan-Tajik friendship. . Pakistan-Tajikistan Dosti Zindabad
The writer is Pakistan’s Ambassador to Tajikistan.
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