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Pakistan-Uzbekistan Relations: A Quick Overview

Muhammad Fahim

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Though Pak-Uzbek diplomatic relations commenced some 27 years ago however the two nations have deep-rooted historical connections. Because of Pakistan-Uzbekistan close religious and cultural affinity, their relations strengthened over the years. Hence, this affinity resulted in close cooperation between the two states at the regional and international levels. Both the distant neighbors have great geostrategic importance thus political and economic cooperation between the two is extremely important for the entire region.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the republic of Uzbekistan became an independent country and Pakistan was one of the first countries to formally recognize the former as an independent and sovereign state. During the Afghan civil war and the subsequent reign of the Afghan Taliban, both countries were supporting different factions in Afghanistan and this caused a strain in their relationship. However, after the demise of Islam Karimov, Uzbek President, and the collapse of the Taliban regime Pak-Uzbek relations enhanced enormously. All the credit of this deepening of relations goes to the then Islam Karimov’s successor Nigmatilla Yuldashev. His outreach to the regional countries deepened and improved Uzbekistan’s relations with all regional countries. Uzbekistan has now formally hosted the Afghan Taliban delegation in Tashkent in 2019 which beckons the alignment of Pak-Uzbek interest in Afghanistan.

High-level delegations of both brotherly states meet and visit each other countries frequently. Pakistan and Uzbekistan closely worked and backed each other on international forums including the UN (United Nations), OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization), SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). The Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) of both countries held regularly.

Concerning the economic cooperation between the two brotherly countries, trade between 2018 and 2019 trebled. Both countries vowed to increase the bilateral trade to $300 million. The first direct flight from Lahore to Tashkent was launched in 2018 by Uzbekistan Airways. More than 12,000 Pakistani travelers use this route annually.

In 2019, in an interview with the local Pakistani media, the Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Pakistan, Furqat Sidiqov, said, “This year, economic cooperation between Uzbekistan and Pakistan reached highest levels. Uzbek side is keen to continue to develop in 2020 bilateral relations in order to achieve more effective results for the sake of benefits of the two brotherly nations,” he continued, adding that, “more than 170 Pakistani companies visited Uzbekistan in order to hold negations on the matters of export and import of wide range of goods and to realize joint investment projects.”

Uzbekistan and Pakistan are two major producers of cotton. However, Pakistan is facing numerous issues in the cotton per-acre yield due to the use of old techniques and equipment. Therefore, to ameliorate the per-acre cotton yield and help the farmers with cutting-edge agricultural techniques and technologies, Uzbek Export Corporation and KASB signed an agreement. The Pakistani farmers can benefit from Uzbekistan experience and the use of new techniques and technologies which will improve their cotton production.

There is a great need to enhance institutional relations and establish a Joint commission and a business council to increase trade and deepen bilateral relations. Uzbekistan can import sports goods, medical equipment, textile goods, and engineering goods from Pakistan while Pakistan can import construction materials, cables, fertilizers, agriculture machinery, and silk from Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is a landlocked country. Therefore, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) brought great opportunities for the Uzbek businessmen to access the wider world through Pakistani ports which is the shortest and viable trade route for Uzbekistan. While Uzbekistan can become a gateway for Pakistan to access the Central Asian markets.

The incumbent Deputy Premier of Uzbekistan, Sardor Umurzakov, entreated Pakistan to help and support its accession to the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) which is aimed at giving access to the central Asian states and China to Pakistani warm water ports. In May 2020, Pakistan assured her support to Uzbekistan in joining the QTTA and sharing her experience with the latter of achieving GSP plus status. The QTTA agreement has been signed by four countries which include China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan.

Among the 70,000 Uzbek population in Pakistan, the majority are Afghan Uzbek refugees from northern Afghanistan however a small number of immigrants from Uzbekistan have also migrated to the land of the pure. Furthermore, according to the Urdu-Uzbek dictionary, compiled by the students of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Tashkent and University of World Economy and Diplomacy (Uzbekistan) Urdu Departments, 4,000 words are found common in both languages. Scholars of both countries frequently visit each other countries. In addition, the National Defense University (NDU) and Pakistan Foreign Service Academy regularly renders training to officials, functionaries, and officers from Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is the land of great scientists, Islamic scholars, and Sufis like Imam Tirmzi, Ibn Sina, Al-Biruni, Ulugbek, Imam Bukhari, Al-Khorezmi, Alisher Navoi, Abu Nasr al-Farabi, and others. Secondly, Uzbekistan has precious and ancient cities like Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Termez, and Kokand which are great tourist attractions. Similarly, Pakistan has also great potential for mountain, cultural, and religious tourism. Therefore, both countries can greatly benefit from their tourism potential and can boost their tourism industries manifold.

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