Pakistan, Uzbekistan vow to enhance connectivity; cooperate in trade, energy

TASHKENT, March 24 (APP): Pakistan and Uzbekistan on Thursday pledged to move forward in all spheres, with a particular focus on cooperation in energy sector, bilateral investments and increased connectivity to boost trade. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev in their exclusive and delegation level talks held here at the International Business Centre covered a whole range of issues. The two sides discussed bilateral ties, situation in the region with particular focus on transition in Afghanistan and the need for peace and stability to the war-ravaged country.

The two leaders discussed enhancing cooperation in counter-terrorism and ensuring strict control on drug trafficking. Pakistan and Uzbekistan, which already share an agreement on intelligence sharing, agreed on enhancing collaboration for ensuring greater peace in the region.

The two leaders in an informal chat with the reporters termed their talks as “excellent”. Both termed peace and stability in Afghanistan vital for regional peace and said the two countries had high stakes in their common neighbour.

The Prime Minister pointing at Pakistan’s energy requirements said Pakistan was prepared to buy surplus electricity from the neighbouring Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan. He said the two countries can also have close collaboration in the oil and gas sector and urged the need to explore possibilities to the mutual benefit of the two states and their peoples.

Gilani said Pakistan’s Gwadar and Karachi seaports could facilitate trade between Central Asian Republics, Middle East, Africa and beyond. He proposed that a trilateral trade agreement between Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan can be reached at in this regard.

The leaders of Pakistan and Uzbekistan also discussed various proposals to enhance bilateral trade and economic cooperation and agreed on pursuing a joint strategy in this regard.

Prime Minister Gilani noted that trade between the two countries was around a mere $40 million per anum, far below the potential and said closer collaboration was required to raise it to a reasonable level.

Uzbek Prime Minister said the two countries can increase trade by five times and offered its locally manufactured buses, trucks, machinery and cooperation in agriculture sector.
The two leaders agreed on greater involvement of their private sectors and strengthening of cooperation between the chambers and industry of the two countries. Prime Minister Gilani was of the view that agreements on establishing banking channels and liberal visa regimes were imperative to improve bilateral trade and investment and to increase business-to-business contact through the Joint Business Council.

Gilani called for closer cooperation in the field of agriculture, energy, petroleum and natural resources and science and technology. He also offered Pakistan’s assistance for the development of Uzbek Human Resources for training in various fields.

Both the leaders while noting their close friendly relations expressed the resolve to make all efforts to deepen and expand these mutually beneficial relationships in all fields.
Gilani noted that both Pakistan and Uzbekistan have a large agricultural base and can share experiences in this sector to enhance production, particularly in cotton. He said Uzbekistan being the sixth largest producer and second largest exporter of cotton, could share knowledge and technology with Pakistan and also supply quality cotton for Pakistan’s textile sector.

The two leaders also noted the recent signing of the joint protocol of mutual cooperation in the field of trade, economic, finance, scientific technical cooperation, transportation and transit of goods, bilateral investment, power sector, food and agriculture, IT and telecom, culture and environment at a meeting of their Joint Ministerial Commission in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Gilani proposed formation of a Joint Working Group (JWG) on implementation of joint investment projects and to facilitate their business community to participate in fairs and exhibitions.

Gilani said Pakistan would be ready to help security and defence cooperation with Uzbekistan. He said both the countries have common threats and challenges, created by extremists and criminal elements and have stakes in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan desires frequent exchange of views in this regard.

He agreed with Uzbek Prime Minister that the “6 + 3” approach was right to address the security challenges.

The Uzbekistan’s “6 + 3” proposal was first floated at the April 2008 by Uzbek President Islom Karimov during the NATO summit in Bucharest. President Karimov proposed that the UN’s Afghanistan “6+2” assembly, established in 1999, be revived by expanding it into a “6+3” ensemble by including NATO because of its anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan among the “six” members Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, China and Iran and the “two,” the United States and Russia.
Both the leaders agreed to jointly work for regional and international peace. Gilani also highlighted Pakistan’s role in regional peace and stability and said Pakistan supports Afghan led and Afghan owned efforts for stability. He recalled his interaction with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his last visit to Afghanistan and expressed confidence that the talks at the highest level would prove fruitful in establishing better understanding between the two countries.
Gilani said the common threat of terrorism and extremism being faced by the entire region requires a common strategy for its elimination. However, pointed that this could not be achieved without bringing about political and socio-economic development and economic prosperity in the region.
The Prime Minister noted the progress on the Joint Ministerial level dialogue between Pakistan and Uzbekistan and hoped both sides would be able to move forward in the right direction. He said the Banking sector in both the countries needs to be encouraged to play its role in promoting trade and economic ties and urged that the opening up of a branch of the National Bank of Pakistan in Tashkent be expedited.
The Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev said Uzbekistan recognizes Pakistan’s leading role in the region including its efforts to fight terrorism which has emerged as a challenge not only for the region but for the entire world.

He said Pakistan’s role for peace in Afghanistan was equally appreciable and said it would not only help bring stability but would also help bring about economic development in the entire region particularly in the Central Asian Republics.

He said Uzbekistan was developing road and Railways connectivity with Afghanistan. Shavkat Mirziyoyev said Uzbekistan is already building a rail link up to Mazar-e-Sharif and it could be further extended to Gwadar to promote trade. He said Uzbekistan would extend full cooperation to Pakistan in the agricultural and energy sectors.

He offered help in water resources, livestock and dairy farming. He also said Urdu Chair in Tashkent and Uzbek Chair in Islamabad would promote their national languages and help bring the two people together.

He said peace and stability in Afghanistan would have similar impact in the entire region and said his country supported the idea of 6 + 2 and would now support the 6 + 3 forum.
The two sides also agreed on the exchange of parliamentary delegations and to improve people-to-people contacts. Both the leaders were unanimous that cooperation in tourism and trade could prove mutually beneficial between the two countries.

Gilani also sought Uzbekistan’s support to help get it full membership of the regional security forum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). He thanked Uzbekistan for its support in getting the Observer status and being the current Chairman, urged support for Its request for full membership of this important regional organization.
Pakistan, due to its geo-strategic location and important role for peace and security in the region, is seeking permanent membership in the SCO, which has Iran, India and Mangolia as observers and Belarus and Sri Lanka as dialogue partners.

Uzbek prime minister greeted Prime Minister Gilani on Pakistan Day and also on completion of his three years in his office. Gilani greeted him on Nauroz and invited him to visit Pakistan.

Minister for Food and Agriculture Israr Ullah Zehri, Minister for Privatisation Syed Naveed Qamar and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar are part of Prime Minister Gilani’s delegation – Ftpapp