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Revitalizing Pakistan’s Economy: The Vital Role of Diplomatic Ties with Central Asia

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Pakistan is at a critical juncture, seeking to overcome economic challenges and build new foundations for sustainable growth and prosperity. In this pursuit, Pakistan’s diplomatic relations with Central Asia emerge as a pivotal factor with immense potential to stimulate economic development.

Central Asian countries have abundant natural resources, including oil, gas, precious metals, and minerals. However, being landlocked limits the region’s ability to fully capitalize on these resources. This is where Pakistan’s strategic location comes into play. With the Arabian Sea in its south, Pakistan provides the shortest route for Central Asian trade to access international waters.

Recognizing this strategic complementarity, Pakistan has actively strengthened its engagement with Central Asia on diplomatic and economic fronts. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the main project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is essential to this regional integration. Central Asian countries now have access to the vast CPEC pipeline, road, and rail network that links China’s Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port.

Recent Diplomatic Developments Strengthening Ties

Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, made his last official visit to Uzbekistan in 2021 when he traveled there. Significant results came from this high-level interaction, including strategic alliances in commerce, energy, infrastructure development, and regional connectivity.

Both countries signed trade and transit agreements to enhance overland connectivity. These accords also increase customs clearance and dispute resolution cooperation to facilitate bilateral trade. With Uzbekistan offering access to broader Central Asian markets, this promises to boost Pakistan’s exports and economic growth.

Similarly, holding the 15th Ministerial Conference of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) in 2016 was another move Pakistan took to boost regional integration and commercial cooperation. The conference, which had attendees from eight international institutions and 10 partner countries with 1 Observer country, including Central Asian countries, was held for the first time in Pakistan, making it an important event.

Pakistan has a solid commitment to the goals and ideals of the organization, as evidenced by Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif’s attendance at the 6th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on October 13, 2022. The Prime Minister discussed Pakistan’s top priorities and viewpoints during the plenary, emphasizing the value of collaboration and tackling regional problems. The conversations with other leaders and the one-on-one talks with the presidents of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan further improved Pakistan’s relations with these nations.

Additionally, the international community expressed solidarity with Pakistan in the face of climate-induced floods, calling for support in relief and rehabilitation efforts. The participation in the Summit provided an essential platform for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to present Pakistan’s viewpoints on national, regional, and global matters, reinforcing the nation’s commitment to regional cooperation and peace.

Unlocking Vast Economic Potential

With CPEC’s physical infrastructure nearing completion, Pakistan is poised to reap economic dividends by strengthening connectivity with Central Asia. Some key areas presenting lucrative prospects include:

Energy Cooperation: Central Asia’s oil and gas reserves are ideal partners in overcoming Pakistan’s energy shortfalls. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and CASA-1000 electricity transmission line are two significant projects in the pipeline. With secure energy access, Pakistan can power its industries and economic growth engines. The discussion on the construction of the TAPI Pipeline in September 2022 is one of the sign.

Infrastructure Development: Pakistan requires massive transport, IT, and urban infrastructure investments to sustain its growing population. Central Asia’s expertise in these sectors can facilitate knowledge and technology transfers to Pakistan through joint ventures. Like the recent agreements with Uzbekistan and agreement on enhance cooperation at governmental level with Kazakhstan are the positive signs.

Agricultural Trade: Pakistan is among the world’s largest cotton producers, while Central Asia boasts grain surpluses. By trading these complementary agrarian products, both regions address food security concerns through specialization rather than competing over resources.

Tourism: Pakistan and Central Asia share deep cultural linkages stretching back centuries. Promoting tourism and people-to-people exchanges in areas like adventure travel, ecotourism, and religious pilgrimages can boost revenues substantially.

Afghan Reconstruction: With Afghanistan’s proximity, Pakistan and Central Asia are interested in the country’s stability. Joint reconstruction and infrastructure projects create new investment avenues while tackling extremism.

Countering Security Threats

As with any cross-border partnership, some impediments can undermine Pakistan-Central Asia’s economic potential. Terrorism and drug trafficking afflict the region, jeopardizing investments and trade flows. However, countering these threats requires even deeper collaboration between governments and intelligence agencies. Central Asia’s growing economic dependence on China could also limit Pakistan’s regional interests. But China’s expanding footprint need not be seen as a zero-sum game. With prudent diplomacy, Pakistan can develop trilateral partnerships aligning BRI with its connectivity goals.

The diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Central Asia offer a remarkable opportunity for fostering economic prosperity and regional stability. Through the transformative CPEC project and a strategic focus on trade, Pakistan can effectively address its fiscal deficit while expanding its economic engagements with Central Asian countries.

By capitalizing on shared interests, such as energy cooperation and cultural exchanges, a strong foundation for a multifaceted alliance has been laid. As trade relations continue to strengthen, both Pakistan and Central Asia stand to benefit from increased economic integration and a brighter future together. The stage is set for a profound economic partnership with far-reaching implications. Pakistan’s strategic location can be turned into a strategic advantage through visionary leadership and deft diplomacy, unlocking Central Asia’s riches and propelling Pakistan toward a more prosperous and stable future.

The upcoming elections in Pakistan provide a crucial opportunity for the country to reinforce its commitment to democracy and foster internal peace. A fair and peaceful electoral process will showcase the robustness of Pakistan’s political system and boost public confidence in the government, leading to more excellent political stability and trust in the democratic process. This will create a more harmonious society, demonstrating Pakistan’s dedication to democratic principles. Additionally, the positive signal of a fair election will enhance Pakistan’s international standing, attracting foreign investors and trade opportunities that can bolster the economy, generate jobs, and improve living standards. Moreover, strengthened relations with neighboring Central Asian countries will open up new prospects for business, security cooperation, and energy partnerships, fostering mutual prosperity and peace in the region.

Also Read: Plastic Pollution in Pakistan: A Growing Concern for Environmental Sustainability

As a rising regional bloc, deeper cooperation between Pakistan and Central Asia can unleash new growth drivers, significantly uplifting millions out of poverty. By persistently improving regional integration, trade volumes, and people-to-people bonds, Pakistan can tap into the potential of the Central Asian market and achieve long-term economic stability. Recognizing that achieving these ambitious goals will require consistent efforts over time is essential. The infrastructure of CPEC and common cultural ties will play crucial roles in effectively increasing trade with Central Asia and fostering mutual prosperity.

Pakistan’s relentless pursuit of stronger diplomatic ties and trade relationships with Central Asia presents a promising opportunity to decrease its fiscal deficit and pave the way for a brighter future for all parties involved. The benefits of this endeavor, with patience and dedication, are undoubtedly enormous, presenting the possibility of future progress and wealth for everybody. As they say, “Rome was not built in a day,” too, will it take time and effort for this transformational endeavor to reach its full potential. Nevertheless, the benefits it offers make it a journey worth undertaking.


** The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views or position of World Affairs Insider. The organization neither endorses nor takes responsibility for the content of this article and its accuracy.

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