’Pakistan’s Shared Future with the Central Asian Republics’’

Written by: Ms. Aimen Jamil, PRCCSF Fellow, Islamabad.
The energy-rich and landlocked Central Asian states have significantly increased their importance in Pakistan’s foreign policy. The proximity of the Central Asian Republics to Islamabad’s zeal for fostering political and economic ties has strengthened on many important fronts.  The Central Asian governments consider Pakistan an important ally due to cultural and religious affinity and its geostrategic position. Pakistan is the ideal location for the international maritime trade of Central Asian nations. Central Asian Republics are enriched in hydrocarbon assets, thus providing great opportunities for Pakistan to interact to fulfil energy requirements. Regional collaboration and socioeconomic integration have opened up new pathways for greater regional connectivity with Afghanistan.

Assessing Pakistan’s Relations with Central Asian Countries:
1- Pakistan-Kazakhstan Bilateral Engagements:
Kazakhstan gained independence in December 1991, and Pakistan was one of the first nations to recognize it. Diplomatic links were subsequently established between the two nations in 1992. Both countries are enjoying cordial relations at different levels. Social, defence and educational engagements are also the priority of cooperation. As Kazakhstan is a landlocked country enriched in natural resources. Thereby, it is a great opportunity for Pakistan to cooperate in the energy sector and provide a transportation route to the landlocked country. It would be a win-win situation for the two countries. In recent years, ties between Pakistan and Kazakhstan have entered a new era, with a primary focus on business, trade, and regional connectivity. The likelihood of Afghan stability, the emergence of multipolar world order, and the advancement of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) in Central Asia and South Asia are creating new avenues for international trade and investment. The BRI’s flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), gives Central Asian nations access to the warm waters of the Gwadar seaport.

2-Pakistan – Tajikistan Bilateral Engagements:
This year (2022) marks the anniversary of thirty years of bilateral cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of Tajikistan. The country got independence in 1991, and diplomatic ties were established in 1992, but the joint activities began in 1994. The two countries relish their relations to sustain regional stability. A turning point in relations was the president of Tajikistan’s visit to Pakistan in 2015. Numerous cooperative agreements were signed between the two nations in the fields of energy, security, trade, defence, culture, infrastructure growth, communication and enhanced people-to-people contacts. Both parties decided to strengthen interpersonal ties and hold regular delegation visits.

3-Pakistan-Uzbekistan Bilateral Engagements:
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the following liberation of Central Asian states, Pakistan was among the first nations to recognize Uzbekistan. Since then, relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan have been friendly and cordial. Additionally, religious coherence is yet another factor for stronger relations.  In recent years, relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan have improved manifold. Moreover, the railroad through Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar, a crucial connectivity project would increase trade between the three states {Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan}. Both countries have the potential to engage in vast areas of trade, tourism, health, education, and energy sectors.

4- Pakistan-Turkmenistan Bilateral Engagement:
Since 1991, Pakistan and Turkmenistan have enjoyed remarkable political, cultural, economic, and social ties. Turkmenistan and Pakistan have decided to expand their bilateral collaboration at regional and international fora and deepened their bilateral connections in a variety of industries. One of the major projects between the two states is the TAPI gas pipeline project. Both countries are also keen to expand the areas of cooperation in trade, agriculture products banking sector, pharmaceuticals, and engineering goods and to increase the exchange of ministerial-level meetings to further boost the relations.

5- Pakistan-Kyrgyzstan Bilateral Engagement:
Pakistan recognized the Republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1991 soon after its independence. The diplomatic activities began in 1992. Both countries in recent years have focused to enhance bilateral cooperation in five aspects which are political, commerce and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence, and people-to-people exchanges.

The common participation in international organisations such as the OIC, SCO, ECO, and CICA in addition to the UN has strengthened the multilateral cooperation between Central Asian states and Pakistan. These nations support each other on various international and regional fora. They also contribute to the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan.  Moreover, the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) main project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), was officially launched in 2015. It is viewed as a turning point in Sino-Pakistani ties. It has grown to be the most important regional integration project between China and Pakistan. All interested regional stakeholders are welcome to participate in the initiative. The prospects for cooperation under CPEC for CARs are high at the present time. Thus, Pakistan has been considering exploring new options with Central Asia.


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