1. Bilateral trade plays very important role in any country’s diplomatic relations. Would you please share with us your any specific plan to strengthen the diplomatic and cultural ties between the two countries in the days to come?
With the blessing of our leaders our countries have already signed more than 29 agreements and MOUs which guideline us in all spheres of bilateral cooperation and brotherly relations. Pakistan and Uzbekistan have been enjoying cordial bilateral relations since the independence of Uzbekistan in 1991. Apart from historical, ethnic, cultural and Islamic bonds, regional cooperation also fosters cooperation between the two countries. The only Central Asian state adjoining to all the others, Uzbekistan is geographically fine to be found to turn into the leading power in the region. Uzbekistan has a long historical and cultural tie to the Turkish, Persian and Arab worlds, which are the natural direction for expanded foreign relations. More people-to-people contacts, business missions, industrial exhibitions, delegations and exchange of cultural activities would be instrumental to further strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.
There is a need to develop academic and cultural exchange programs. In this regard the memorandum of understanding that was signed between International Islamic University Islamabad and Tashkent Islamic University Uzbekistan, Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar Pakistan and Institute of Oriental Studies Academy of Sciences Tashkent Uzbekistan are the greats. This kind of interaction improves the relations between states and in this case, undoubtedly, would facilitate the creation of better understanding between Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Academic interaction would necessarily enhance cooperative relations between the two states and would develop academic and cultural exchange in different areas of research in various disciplines.
2. What are your suggestions to further strengthen the bilateral socio-economic relations and volumes of trade in the future?
Agreement on transit trade signed by former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Tashkent has opened broad perspectives for exchange of the trade and economic relations. Our century is century of economic, diplomacy, competition and cooperation. The volumes of bilateral trade will be increased in the days to come. Uzbekistan would consider entering into a tri-partite agreement with Pakistan via Afghanistan in order to gain access to the Pakistani ports at Karachi and Gwadar in order to increase volumes of bilateral trade.
3. Seeking of foreign direct investment is the mantra of every country in the world. What are the chances of attracting FDI, and joint venture of your private companies in Pakistan?
Chances are bright and opportunities are diversified too. The pace of joint ventures and FDI would be enhanced in the future between the two countries. For the potential foreign investors Uzbekistan offers different forms of ventures, setting up joint-ventures, enterprises with 100 per cent foreign capital, acquisition of part or entire issues of shares of privatized companies and etc, as well as groups of projects in different spheres of economy: in industrial complex, agriculture, transport, telecommunications, construction, public health, tourism and other.
4. What are the potential areas/sectors of FDI and joint ventures in the days to come between the two countries?
On March 8, 2007 in Islamabad the third session of Pakistan-Uzbekistan Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) took place. During the meeting Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to establish joint ventures in textile, pharmaceutical, leather industries, manufacturing medical equipment and exchange of technology in the health sector. Pakistan offered export of engineering, medical and sports goods, textile fabrics, while Uzbek side had proposed for exports of the cotton fiber, chemical production, silk, mineral fertilisers, cables, construction material, agriculture machinery.
First Pakistani truck from PAK CASPIAN TRADE LINKS Company reached Uzbekistan on 17 April 2008. The truck carried Pakistani products through Afghanistan to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and brought back Chemicals from Uzbekistan. This has also opened up a corridor for transit cargo to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan through Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, as the follow up efforts to implement bilateral transit trade agreement signed in Tashkent in march 2007.
Republic of Uzbekistan has great production and mineral potential, unique agricultural raw materials, significant volumes of half-finished items in the process of conversion, rich natural resources, and developed infrastructure. Uzbekistan has very finely preserved the vestiges of the time when Central Asia was a center of empire, education, and trade. Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Shakhrisabz and Tashkent live on in the imagination of the West as symbols of oriental beauty and mystery.
5. Do you think that both the countries may extend its ties in the fields of tourism, education, technical assistance courses, science & technology, information and broadcasting, pharmaceuticals, banking, energy, agriculture and culture in the days to come?
Uzbekistan is the only country in the region of CIS having such a good opportunity for bilateral tourism. With the exchange of visits of our Presidents, Uzbekistan Airways has opened regular commercial filghts(2-3 times a week) between Lahore and Tashkent. This has opened a huge opportunity for bilateral tourism. More than 20 Pakistani tourist companies had signed MOUs with Uzbek counterparts. Travel Planners has become an official representative of National Tourism Company of Uzbekistan “Uzbek-tourism” in Pakistan. ‘New Arabian Express” and ‘Crystal Travels’ are agents for Uzbek Airways. We are considering lots of possible options and possibilities of future cooperation in different sectors/sun-sectors. We may extend our bilateral cooperation in the mutually benefited fields such as tourism, education, technical assistance courses, science & technology, information and broadcasting, pharmaceuticals, banking, energy, agriculture and culture in the near future.
6. Pakistan is an energy-deficient country which is hurting us badly. How may you assist Pakistan in this regard?
Uzbekistan after its independence has gained in gas, oil industry and grain sufficiently. Nature has blessed us with minerals and energy resources too. Both the countries are considering the possible options to extent cooperation in energy sector particularly ‘natural gas’ in the near future. Uzbekistan already supplies electricity to seven northern provinces of Afghanistan. So, it is a matter of time and negotiations to extend these supplies to Pakistan.
7. Uzbekistan is blessed with lots of minerals reservoirs by nature. Do you think that both the countries may cooperate in mineral sector too?
We occupy leading place on confirmed stocks of useful fossilised, such as gold, uranus, copper, natural gas, tungsten, potassium salts, phosphorus, kaolin in the world. So, on stocks of gold republic occupies a fourth place in the world, but on the level of its mining seventh place, on stocks of copper tenth-eleventh place; Uranus seventh-eighth place, but on its mining-eleventh-a twelfth place. Available stocks of mineral resources in its majority not only ensure acting mining complexes on the long prospect, but also allow to enlarge powers, newly organise a mining row most of the important useful fossilised gold, uranus, copper, lead, silver, lithium, phosphorus, potassium salts and others. So it would be mutually beneficial for both the countries.
8. What are the main contributory factors in your national macro-economy?
The economic growth is being ensured firstly by consistent liberalisation of economy system-based market reforms and attraction of foreign investments, deep structural changes in economy, modernisation and renovation of production, creation of the new export-bound sectors and enterprises, accelerated development of business and private entrepreneurship.
9. Do Pakistan and Uzbekistan have defence cooperation mechanism and what are the main areas of military cooperation? What are your suggestions to boost defence cooperation between the two countries?
Uzbekistan has great level of defence cooperation with many countries, including brotherly Pakistan. For example, Uzbekistan produces three types of aircrafts “IL-86”, “IL-86M” and “IL-114” which are being exported to Russia, Jordan, India and Azerbaijan. Again this a matter of time and economic prudence to explore the possibility of joint cooperation in this filed too.
10. What is the future of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). What steps should be taken to make our planet arms free and a safer place to live in?
We think that nuclear arsenals are potential threat to humanity. Uzbekistan came up with initiative to form a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (CANWFZ). In September 15, 1997, an international conference was convened in Tashkent, Uzbekistan to consider this issue. A UN resolution supporting the initiative for a CANWFZ passed the UN First Committee by consensus in November 1997. The Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty was signed September 8, 2006.
11. Foreign policy is nothing but the reflection of internal dynamics. What are the salient features of Uzbekistan foreign policy?
Economics, national security, and Uzbekistan first are the three main priorities of our foreign policy. We wish brotherly and friendly ties with CIS and all regional countries. Furthermore, respect of sovereignty, territorial independency for others, global cooperation, harmony and peace are the salient features of our foreign policy.
12. What are your suggestions to control the problem of regional and global terrorism and furthermore, what is your point of view about the clash of civilization?
We are against any kind of attempts to use the religion, bet it Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism as political mean or for terrorist activity. It is inhumane which demoralizes social, cultural fabrics. Joint and giant concrete effort is needed at regional and global level to eradicate the menace of terrorism. There is no clash of civilization as projects by the vested interested western media. We are different still are human beings. Uzbekistan President strongly condemned and urged to stop and not tolerate unbearable and absolutely groundless attacks and slanders on Islam by some political circles and media, which heavily insult the whole Muslim world and the Holy Islam religion. The public of Uzbekistan resolutely condemned the fact of making the documentary film “Fitna”, which insults the religious feelings of Muslims
13. Central Asia region is full of natural resources i.e. oil & gas. What are your energy security concerns?
We are sovereign country and we have the right to use our available resources at our will. There should be regional energy security cooperation among all CIS.
14. How you rate your stay in Pakistan, furthermore do you like Pakistan?
I love my stay in Pakistan. It is second home to me. It is a beautiful country which has all the seasons of life and colors. I have the best memories of my pervious stay in Karachi and my recent visits to Lahore, Peshawar, Mardan, Badin, Sialkot, Faisalabad and even Changa Manga in Punjab.
15. Pakistan has diversified but rich culture. Do you like native culture, society and people of Pakistan?
Pakistan is a historically and culturally rich country. It has dynamic society. Its people are great, hardworking, decent, and open. They are educated, tolerant and above all cooperative too. Our two nations are sharing common history, religion; traditions are customs both our countries have same respect and dignity being a honorable representative of great civilizations
16. What is your message to common people of Pakistan?
My message is love, respect, trust, harmony and cooperation which are full of good wishes to all of you. My message also consists of commitment, understanding, decency, service, and above all humanity. We pray may Allah All Mighty guide us in journey to socio-economic progress, stability and sustainability
Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan speaks to honorable, Oybke Arif Usmanov ambassador of Uzbekistan about various aspects of cooperation in the area of trade and business.