Pakistan and Azerbaijan are strategic partners: Mr Ali Alizada

Arif Qureshi

Islamabad: The ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan Mr.Ali Alizada said that the Pakistan and Azerbaijan are strategic partners and the governments of both countries are trying their best to improve and strengthen existing bilateral relations at all levels. Azerbaijan envoy expressed these views while addressing at a Seminar on the topic of “Current Geopolitical Trends in the Region and Prospects for Deeper Relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan” jointly organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and the Azerbaijan Center for Strategic Studies here in Islamabad on Thursday.

The Ambassador of Azerbaijan Ali Alizada stressed that research exploration is an important part of Azerbaijan-Pakistan relations, which present numerous opportunities to both countries, especially for their think tanks to work together and increase knowledge about each other. he said. Ambassador Alizada shared that there has been a 23% increase in trade between both countries, and visa procedures for Pakistanis had been eased to facilitate travel and tourism, and in the near future, direct flights between both countries are also being planned. He also highlighted that energy projects and scholarship programmes for Pakistani students were also being implemented.

The ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan said that the Pakistan and Azerbaijan are strategic partners and the governments of both countries are trying their best to improve and strengthen existing bilateral relations at all levels.

Dr Cavid Veliyev, Head of Foreign Policy Analysis Department, SAM Azerbaijan said that Azerbaijan’s landlocked geography has had a deep impact on its economic and social development as well as identity. Located between the East and West, North and South, Azerbaijan is fast becoming an important transport and trade hub.” He pointed out that Azerbaijan has a “multilateral, balanced, proactive and independent foreign policy.” This is why the country is member of the Non-Aligned Movement and not a part of any military forum. “Given its balanced foreign policy, Azerbaijan’s trilateral relations with Pakistan, Turkey are equally important which are project-oriented; and also help to discuss and resolve regional problems through diplomacy and peaceful means,” he concluded.

There was consensus among the participant that Pakistan-Azerbaijan bilateral relations transcend geographical boundaries and distance, characterized by shared values and common outlook on various regional and global issues based on confidence, mutual trust and respect. Both share common regional and global challenges and threats in the current geopolitical trends and need greater cooperation to maximize each other’s potential to overcome them.

Both countries need to increase people-to-people contacts through tourism and initiating direct flights. Pakistan-Azerbaijan trade is miniscule compared to its potential and needs to be improved through greater interaction between their Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Terrorism and drug trafficking is a common challenge. Pakistan and Azerbaijan should develop joint mechanisms to deal with these mutual threats.

Mr Mahir Humbatov, Research Fellow from SAM highlighted Azerbaijan’s development as a transit country and shared details about its infrastructure and logistics projects. “Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is becoming an important transport and logistics center of the region.” He discussed the important work that has been carried out in his country to improve the transport, railways, port, sea shipment and airways infrastructure, which plays a significant role in the development of the economy, in particular, the non-oil sector. Mr Humbatov also highlighted developments in the country’s IT sector which now has its own satellite, multilateral initiatives and special free IT zones.

Brig. (R) Mehboob Qadir, acting President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI in his welcome address said Pakistan and Azerbaijan believe that they are destined to play an important role in helping to establish peace, security and economic progress in South and West Asia. The emerging geopolitical and economic realities in the region offer both challenges and opportunities. “The challenges stem from extremism, indefinite presence of the US forces in the region, expanding pockets of the ISIL in Afghanistan, the Indo-US strategic alliance, US attempt to counter Chinese and Russian influence in the region, and the hostile measures to engineer instability in Pakistan.

Dr Fazal-ur-Rahman, Director, Pakistan Institute of China Studies, University of Sargodha was of the view that both Pakistan and Azerbaijan undoubtedly have huge potential for creating direct or multimodal transport connectivity, which could enhance regional economic integration in a globalized environment. “Pakistan has always been supportive of connectivity related initiatives for achieving regional cooperation, be it ECO or CPEC.

Mr Fuad Chiragov, Research Fellow, Azerbaijan Center for Strategic Studies expressed his gratitude to Pakistan for its support and solidarity when Azerbaijan faced Armenian aggression. “Pakistan was one of the few countries that did not close eyes to the injustice, openly condemned the aggression and spoke about the true nature of events in Nogorno-Karabakh without any ambiguous statements and messages.” He pointed out that Azerbaijan is also aware of how international institutions and regional powers approach Pakistan in a double-standard manner. “We see how Pakistan tries to survive in a very complicated geography.

Dr Nazir Husain, Director, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan spoke about how with the rise of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and newly developing geopolitical realities, there is scope for much more interaction. “With China emerging as a prominent stakeholder in economic and security fabric of Asia, there is a change of pace for geo-economics. He urged that Pakistan and Azerbaijan need to further strengthen their ties, especially in the defense and trade sector and forge more sustainable relations with each other.

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