ISLAMABAD: Experts at a roundtable discussion on Pakistan’s relations with Central Asian Republics (CARs) and Azerbaijan on Thursday urged for a more effective strategy and concerted efforts to strengthen ties with these countries, given their growing economic significance.
Hosted by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), the roundtable, titled “Pakistan’s Relations with Central Asia and Azerbaijan: Imperatives of Regional Connectivity,” aimed to stimulate discussions on viable solutions to enhance cooperation with CARs.
Director General of ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood welcomed participants and highlighted the importance of Pakistan’s relationships with the Central Asian region. He noted that Pakistan, being the first country to recognize CARs states, has expanded cooperation across various domains.
Addressing the gathering, the Chairman of PTA, Maj Gen (R) Hafeez Ur Rehman, emphasized the significance of inclusivity and accessibility in the digital landscape, expressing PTA’s commitment to supporting digital inclusion in the country.
Trade Opportunities in Pakistan, CARs, Azerbaijan
Dr. Najam Abbas, Senior Fellow (Central Asia and Eurasia) at East West Institute, Brussels, delivered a keynote address, emphasizing the need to align policy discourse to prioritize areas for enhanced bilateral cooperation with Central Asia. He highlighted the opportunity for Pakistan to become a crucial connectivity hub for Europe, the South Caucasus, China, and CARs.
Professor Shabir Ahmad Khan from the University of Peshawar discussed Pakistan’s role as a transitional hub in a changing global landscape. He urged translating strategic goals in Afghanistan into economic dividends and reviving Afghanistan’s role as a bridge between CARs and the world.
Farhat Asif from the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies discussed challenges in trade through Afghanistan to CARs and the need for information, skills, and joint forums. Khalid Khan, founder of the Central Asian Wireless Forum, emphasized the potential of the IT market, highlighting Pakistan’s internet connectivity status and Azerbaijan’s IT workforce.
Reema Shaukat, a Communication Expert from IRS, addressed cultural and religious affinity between Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and CARs, underscoring the untapped potential in bilateral trade. She highlighted the success of exporting a Gulab Jamun Truck to CARs and suggested avenues for public diplomacy, media training, film showcasing, and youth opportunities for entrepreneurship.
The roundtable concluded with a call for a more robust strategy to capitalize on the shared interests and potential for cooperation in various sectors between Pakistan, CARs, and Azerbaijan.