A positive sign


From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Jan 31 - Feb 06, 2005



The significant visit of Kyrgyzstan President, Askar Akaev, to Pakistan which entailed important meetings with Pakistan leaders including President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is a sign of growing friendly ties between the two countries in this region.

The cordial interaction between the heads of the two countries naturally poise to open new avenues of cooperation as both the two countries have decided to import impetus to their bilateral trade relations by improving communication links and activating Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to become an effective vehicle for economic integration of the region.

Hopefully, the growing relationship with the Central Asian States would translate into growing trade volume and concrete cooperation through better communication links. "We have decided to strengthen the existing bonds of friendship by improving the communication links through Kashgar in China and onto Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and also through improving the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan so that trade activities between the two countries could be enhanced", said President Pervez Musharraf.

The two sides recognized the need to consolidate cooperation in other fields including education and defense training and also discussed the possibility of electricity transmission from electricity rich Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan. "We decided to cooperate in the areas of science and technology through exchange of teacher and students," Musharraf said adding that Pakistan would look into the feasibility of electricity transmission from Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan.

Pakistan is keen to see progress on the ECO trade agreement signed in Islamabad as it would give a strong fillip to intra regional trade and also encourage the private sectors. "We have common stakes in its success." President Musharraf while paying his tributes to the visiting leading observed that Central Asia has a high place in Pakistan's quest for trade and economic cooperation with the outside world.



"Our geographical proximity offers Central Asian States, a mutually beneficial access to the Arabian Sea and the regions beyond." Pakistan, he said, has constructed a deep-sea port in Gwadar, which is nearing its completion and is also improving transport, road and related infrastructure. "Pakistan would be happy to see these facilities utilized by the brotherly Central Asian republics particularly Kyrgyzstan, with whom we are keen to increase trade," the president said.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz after his meeting with the visiting President was of the view that Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan have refreshed the commitment to reactivate the ECO and further enhance their bilateral ties in all fields particularly in economy and trade. He said Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan enjoy close relations and the current visit of Kyrgyz President will go a long way to further strengthen these ties. He said bilateral ties between both the countries would further grow with the opening of historic silk route, which will allow transportation between Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan via China.

He said opening of Gwadar port would also enhance trade and commercial ties between the two countries. He said Pakistan would import electricity from Kyrgyzstan. Shaukat Aziz said he held fruitful talks with President Askar on bilateral and regional issues and both the sides were agreed to further enhance these existing friendly relations. To a question, the Prime Minister said both the countries want to make more vibrant and activate the Economic Cooperation Organization and we have discussed the matter during our talks. He said lack of good transportation links is main reason for not reactivating the ECO. The Joint Economic Ministerial Commission of Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan is meeting by the end of this month and it will help give further boost to the economic relations between the two countries.

Prime Minister said the talks focused on strengthening travel and trade through road links. To meet Pakistan's energy requirements, the two leaders discussed prospects of getting electricity from Kyrgyzstan. Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan, he said, have a long history of relationship and were linked through the historic silk route. "We will once again help recreate linkage of travel and trade between two countries through the Silk Road." He said Pakistan will use the link through the Karakoram Highway (KKH), linking China and Central Asian States, with the ports at Karachi and Gwadar.

To a question, Prime Minister Aziz said the only barrier in improving relations was the lack of a good road network. However, he added that with the opening up of Kyrgyzstan and KKH link by next year, trade between the two countries would get a big boost. He said the two countries also agreed to ease visa facility for the diplomats, officials, businessmen and students of the two countries. President Askar said easier visa facility will improve ties between the two countries.

He also appreciated Pakistan's role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. To a question about the role of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), he said there was a need to reactivate the organization making it more vibrant.

President of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akaev said his country wants a breakthrough in trade and economic partnership with Pakistan. He attaches great importance to deepen trade and economic relations and successful implementation of joint projects in different fields. He expressed the confidence that there were plenty of joint businesses and projects ahead of us.

Kyrgyzstan is interested to change the structure of imports from Pakistan from products of light industry to machinery and high tech products required to develop industries in his country. He said there are also significant capacities for the development of light industry, using mainly local raw materials.

So far the trade volume between the two countries was insignificant as compared to the potential. Most promising areas for direct investment were power sector, telecommunications, light and chemical industry, and mining and processing agricultural products, he said adding that there were also great opportunities for cooperation and profitable investments in tourism sector.