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Bakhtiyor Saidov

Analysis on the Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Bakhtiyor Saidov visit to Pakistan

Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Bakhtiyor Saidov embarked on a two-day official visit to Pakistan on 8-9 May, 2024, aimed at strengthening friendly relations between Uzbekistan and Pakistan, particularly focusing on bolstering trade and connectivity initiatives. Upon his arrival in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Saidov was warmly received by Director General Aizaz Khan of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with a delegation comprising significant figures from Uzbekistan’s diplomatic and governmental spheres.

Foreign Minister Saidov’s visit was marked by a reaffirmation of commitment from both Pakistan and Uzbekistan to the early implementation of the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Railways project, deemed pivotal in bridging South and Central Asia and stimulating bilateral and regional trade. This commitment was solidified during the meetings with Pakistani government officials, wherein a range of bilateral issues, with a special emphasis on trade and connectivity, were extensively discussed.

Throughout his visit, FM engaged in in-depth discussions with high-ranking Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Asif Ali Zardari, and Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, among others, with the focus on the mutual desire for stability in bilateral relations and the exploration of areas of common interest.

The primary agenda of his visit revolved around enhancing bilateral cooperation and trade, with a particular focus on the Trans-Afghan project, aimed at connecting Uzbekistan’s and Pakistan’s railway networks via Afghanistan. Signed in Islamabad in July of the previous year, this project, scheduled for completion by 2027, holds the promise of significantly reducing cargo delivery times and costs, with estimates suggesting a potential transport capacity of up to 15 million tonnes per year by 2030. The envisioned 760-kilometer railroad is anticipated to expedite the movement of goods between Uzbekistan and Pakistan by approximately five days, alongside a projected 40% reduction in transport expenses. The shared commitment to the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Railways project as a transformative initiative symbolizes a substantial step towards regional development and connectivity.

In addition to economic cooperation, discussions between the two sides also emphasized the cultural, civilizational, and historical ties that serve as the solid foundation for a robust partnership between Pakistan and Uzbekistan across various domains to facilitate increased people-to-people contacts and foster greater economic collaboration. Both sides highlighted the multifaceted nature of the relationship between the two countries, encompassing security cooperation, engagement in multilateral forums such as the UN, SCO, and OIC, and a shared commitment to regional development and connectivity.

Pakistan-Uzbekistan cooperation emerged as a vital driver for South-Central Asia cooperation, playing a pivotal role in revitalizing regional integration and fostering social and economic relations. The potential benefits of the UAP railway project extend beyond regional trade facilitation to encompass better people-to-people connections and economic prosperity for the entire region.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s visionary leadership has made a lot of efforts to promote regional connectivity, strengthen bilateral relations with all countries, and open new avenues for progress and prosperity. Uzbekistan considers Pakistan an important partner in the region. Both countries desire to further strengthen and foster social and economic relations, capitalizing on their shared heritage and harnessing the potential of international collaboration to enhance regional connectivity and prosperity, along with promoting economic collaboration with Uzbekistan, highlighting their commitment to deepening bilateral ties and realizing their shared aspirations for regional development and prosperity.

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Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram is an Executive Director, Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future (PRCCSF).