STATE Minister and BoI chairman Azfar Ahsan.
STATE Minister and BoI chairman Azfar Ahsan.

ISLAMABAD: Senior officials of Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan will meet in Tashkent next week for a trilateral meeting to discuss a potential railway project aimed at laying a railway track linking Termez, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul and Peshawar to promote trade in the region.

Minister of State and chairman of the Board of Investment (BoI) Azfar Ahsan has left Islamabad for Tashkent to participate in the trilateral meeting.

In addition to the trilateral meeting, Mr Ahsan will also participate in the Tashkent Inter­national Investment Forum which will be held from March 24 to 26.

The Uzbekistan president is taking special interest in the laying of the railway track with Pakistan via Afghanistan for its future trade and business activities. Uzbekistan, being a landlocked country, has been dependent on Iran’s trade routes for its imports and exports and the sanctions on Iran have made it difficult for Uzbekistan to continue using the same route.

BoI chairman will interact with potential investors from many countries for B2B meetings in Tashkent

The proposed railway connectivity has also been discussed at various international forums, including the Shanghai Coope­ration Organisation (SCO).

During his visit to Pakistan early this month, Uzbek Presi­dent Shavkat Mirziyoyev reaffirmed the important role of the railway project linking the three countries for the future of the region.

Pakistan and Uzbekistan have agreed to evolve a joint ‘roadmap’ which includes measures to develop a feasibility study for the project and start construction work on both sides.

The Trans-Afghan Railway project is stated to be the most economical and shortest route connecting Central Asia to Pakistan’s ports of Karachi, Gwadar and Port Qasim.

The two countries have already signed the bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and the enforcement of the Transit Trade Agreement. These agreements are the sign of the beginning of a new era in bilateral trade relations and will serve to increase mutual trade by utilising existing opportunities.

The Tashkent International Inves­tment Forum is being convened under the theme of “Realising New Growth Agenda” and expects to bring over 200 leaders from the government, busi­ness, civil society and academia to discuss and shape regio­nal as well as industry agendas.

The BoI chairman, who will be the keynote speaker at the inaugural session of the forum, will also meet Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the sidelines of the forum and will interact with potential investors from many countries as head of delegation from Pakistan for business-to-business (B2B) meetings.

An official of BoI says the visit of Mr Ahsan is being of paramount importance for Pakistan on diplomatic and economic front as it comes at a time when strategic ties between Uzbekistan and Pakistan are moving in an upward trajectory.

The BoI chairman envisages that the visit will culminate into fruitful economic cooperation between the three countries and will further strengthen diplomatic and strategic ties.

The forum aims to explore areas of trilateral cooperation among Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan and revolves around discussing the investment potential of Central Asia, transformations in trade flows in Central Asia, digitalisation of transport systems, attracting investments in tourism sector, production modernisation and new agricultural markets.

Mr Ahsan, during his visit, will also hold a meeting with Uzbek Minister of Transport I. Makhkamov and the head of the Afghan delegation in Termez. The discussions will centre on the available conditions of cargo transportation in Pakistan and proposals for increasing the volume of traffic between the three countries will be discussed from Pakistan’s perspective.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022

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