Muhammad Shoaib Khan

Pakistan and Uzbekistan have profound fraternal relations and share deep-rooted cultural and historical linkages. The historic bond between both nations is apparent from the shared Muslim identity and legacy of Islamic scholars of the Islamic Golden Age, such as Imam Bukhari, Imam Tirmzi, and many others. 

Other aspects solidify the relationship between the two Asian nations. Those aspects are the similar arts, culture, traditions, and values that solidify the relations of both countries, which were part of the ancient silk route.

Another historic relation both Pakistan and Uzbekistan share is the descent of the great Mughal Emperor Zaheer-ud-Din Muhammad Babur. Babur was born in the Fergana Valley, which is in Uzbekistan. The interconnection of both nations is also evident from their national languages having more than 4000 common words.

After Uzbekistan’s independence from USSR in 1991, Pakistan was one of the first few countries to recognize Uzbekistan. Ever since the recognition, the two nations have expanded their area of cooperation in the economic, cultural, and diplomatic spheres.

Bilateral relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan go way back to the very creation of the state of Uzbekistan. Both countries are part of several international and regional organizations, like UN, OIC, ECO, and SCO. Furthermore, the receptiveness of both nations is also evident from the marks both countries are making through the joint ministerial meetings held regularly.

After the independence in the early 1990s, it seemed like a destiny to establish a partnership with Pakistan. Their (Pakistan and Uzbekistan) similar demographic configurations, shared religion and historical connections between Fergana Valley and the Indian sub-continent motivated the establishment of durable and cordial bilateral relations between the two countries. 

The geographical locations of Pakistan and Uzbekistan are another factor that can help in enhancing bilateral relations between both countries. Both states are located at the cusps of their respective regions and act as connecting points between the resource-rich Central Asian region and the agricultural heartland region of South Asia. 

The historically famous Fergana valley in Uzbekistan has remained a commercial transit hub. The valley contributed immensely to the economic progress and development of the entire Asian continent. Currently, the valley continues to be fundamental for the continent.  

However, bilateral relations in the first decade of the twenty-first century moved considerably slow due to the surge of terrorism around the globe. Their relationship suffered another setback due to the international financial crises of 2008, which reduced the economic exchanges between both the developing countries. 

Finally, bilateral relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan are taking off and moving forward with a positive trajectory. The proof of this was the visit of Prime Minister Khan in 2021 and the recent visit of the Uzbek President to Pakistan. During both visits, leaders of both countries exchanged pleasantries on the 30 years of friendly diplomatic relations. 

In their meetings, both parties signed several MoUs where they also agreed to strengthen bilateral relations and mutual interests to enhance and cooperate in multiple sectors that included trade, energy, education, science and technology, and cultural exchanges. 

MoUs signed during the visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to Tashkent included agreement on Transit Trade, cooperation in military education, visa procedures for businessmen and tourist groups, MoU between MoFA and Uzbek foreign ministry, and cultural exchange program 2021-2026. 

The leadership of both countries welcomed the signing of agreements in diverse areas and expected that the relationship between Pakistan and Uzbekistan would reach new heights; to strengthen their bilateral relationship. The leaders underlined to establish cooperation in the tourism sector and recognized spiritual tourism. The two leaders discussed the situation related to the COVID-19 and agreed to build further cooperation in this regard. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasized the significance of engagement between Uzbekistan and Pakistan under Vision Central Asia policy, for instance, connectivity, trade, security and defense, and people-to-people contacts. Leaders of both countries stressed supporting each other on international forums on mutual interests. 

During the visit of the Uzbek president to Pakistan this year, both countries once again showed commitment to boosting bilateral ties in different sectors. The leadership of both countries pledged support to the Afghan people and requested the international community to unfreeze Afghan assets. Remember that the international community froze those assets after the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan also emphasized that connectivity from Pakistan to Uzbekistan via Afghanistan would also benefit the war-torn country. During a joint press release, they announced the agreement to further deepen their bilateral ties by promoting pilgrimage tourism and cultural exchanges besides reviving the traditional cooperative partnership. 

The two leaders also expressed satisfaction over the increasing bilateral trade and interaction between the two business communities. The joint declaration after the meeting mentioned that the Uzbek President pledged his support to the initiative of Pakistan to create a poverty alleviation mechanism.

Alongside, both signed the Preferential Trade Agreement and enforcement of the Transit Trade Agreement. Most importantly, the leaders reaffirmed the role of the Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project for the future. Both agreed to evolve a joint Road Map, which includes measures to develop a project feasibility study and start construction work on both sides. 

Furthermore, issues of Islamophobia and Kashmir came under discussion. Now, this is good for both countries because they will implement the agreements in their letter and spirit then it will be beneficial for both countries and help in regional connectivity. 

It is necessary to mention that Tashkent is also a historic city for Pakistan and India. Tashkent’s relevant history goes back to the Indo-Pak 1965 war. When the war ended, both countries reached a peace agreement in Tashkent, later known as Tashkent Agreement 1966.

At last, it is necessary to remark that Pakistan is the shortest, easiest, and most economical connectivity route to the Arabian Sea for Central Asian states and specifically for Uzbekistan. Pakistan is willing to help facilitate Central Asian states to engage in trade via its sea routes. 

Uzbekistan and Pakistan can engage in several cooperation fields like trade, tourism, education, health, and energy projects. Moreover, Pakistan’s renewed focus is geo-economics, strengthening Pakistan- Uzbekistan relations. 

However, peace in the region, particularly Afghanistan, is essential for any trade, investment, and connectivity initiative. Similarly, the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative will further bring both countries close to each other as it has to connect Pakistan with Central Asia and beyond.

*The writer is a political and media analyst who regularly writes on international political issues.

*Views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the institutions.