ISLAMABAD: Most recently an international online conference was held titled “Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the SCO: the way forward for greater development of regional connectivity” was held between The Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and the ISRS under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Leading regional experts, diplomats, researchers, academia, students and media community of both the countries rigorously participated in this prestigious international conference. Matters of Uzbekistan’s SCO Chairmanship, its strategic importance, utility and scope along with chances of greater regional connectivity through integrated transport system, prospects of socio-economic cooperation, peace and stability in Afghanistan, trans-regional cooperation in anti-terrorism, drugs and human trafficking were tabled and discussed. All the prominent speakers stressed the need to have close liaison between Pakistan and Uzbekistan to achieve the pending dreams of greater regional connectivity through trans-regional mega railway project and other innovated means.
The Embassy of Uzbekistan in Islamabad under Ambassador H.E. Aybek Arif Usmanov assisted both the think tanks to hold the said conference at embassy. The event was moderated by Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, the Director of CSAIS.
ISRS Deputy Director Bobur Usmanov in his opening remarks termed Uzbekistan’s SCO chairmanship as the priority multilateral foreign policy platforms for implementing a political course focused on the development of interregional connectivity.
He supported to realize the full potential of the SCO in the new conditions of its development, primarily through increasing practical cooperation in promising areas that meet the interests of all member countries”.
Furthermore Usmanov urged the need to develop Uzbek-Pakistan cooperation within the framework of the SCO which is deeply connected with the issues of restoration and expansion of ties between the regions of Central and South Asia.
During his opening remarks the CSAIS President Syed Khalid Jaffery expressed his satisfaction with the growing Uzbekistan-Pakistani ties based no mutual respect, trust, cooperation in diverse fields of economy, trade & investments, joint ventures, regional connectivity, peace & stability in Afghanistan and trans-regional railways cooperation within various international platforms, including the SCO.
He pinpointed that the mutual interest of the two states in expanding the SCO cooperation agenda is must for future cooperation. The Pakistani expert also expressed his conviction that current Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the SCO opens up new opportunities for all members and partner countries of the Organization to consolidate efforts to form a common economic future.
Speaking positively about the practical initiatives of Uzbekistan within the framework of the SCO, Shahid Hashmat, an expert of the CSAIS, emphasized the high productivity of current Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the Organization.
Moreover, he noted that further strengthening of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Pakistan could become a catalyst for further expansion of trade and economic exchanges in the Shanghai G8 space.
In this direction, he noted the need for including issues of restoring trans-regional connectivity between Central and South Asia in the agenda of the SCO. “All SCO member states are interested in creating a reliable overland transport route capable of ensuring the continuous exchange of goods and services”, he explained.
Akhtar Nawaz, a Senior Member of the Board of Directors of the CSAIS, highlighted the importance of normalizing the situation in Afghanistan for the implementation of interregional projects. The expert emphasized that the Afghan issue should not be left out of the attention of the SCO member states.
In this regards, Akhtar Nawaz shared that Tashkent and Islamabad act as reliable and trusting partners in helping to overcome the humanitarian crisis and establish long-term stability on Afghan soil. “Peaceful Afghanistan will open a reliable path to broad and multifaceted interregional cooperation and will act as a link between the two parts of the SCO space”, the Pakistani expert added.
In his detailed presentation/speech, Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, Director of CSAIS, emphasized that Afghanistan and Pakistan have great potential to connect the Central Asian Countries and South East Asia through amalgamation of Chinese BRI and CPEC.
In this context, the planned construction of the Trans-Afghan corridor among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan will create unique opportunities for expanding not only interregional trade and economic ties, but also ensuring the rapid socio-economic growth of the states of the two neighboring regions”, Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan stated.
The Pakistani expert highlighted the government of Pakistan huge investments for the development of the transport sector through the China Pakistan Economic Corridors (CPEC) program, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program and other initiatives. Pakistan has been applying the Cluster Trading System (CTS), Turks Trading System (TTS) and last but not least, the Transport Internationaux Routier (TIR) to form a dynamic and diversified transport system between Uzbekistan.
He concluded that sea routes need to be opened for trade among SCO member states. Pakistan and Uzbekistan have already signed an agreement to enhance bilateral trade through Karachi and Gwadar ports. A connectivity terminal will be built in the city of Tirmuz in Uzbekistan, which will connect Pakistan with Central Asian countries including Euroasain and European and maritime markets.
Shabir Ahmad Khan, Director of the Center for Central Asian Studies at Peshawar University, emphasized that global trade is moving to the Asian continent and there is significant economic development in the SCO space and nearby regions.