Ambassador of Tajikistan talks to Centreline and DNA
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Mr. Sherali Jononov is a career diplomat. Ever since his appointment as Ambassador to Pakistan, he has undertaken a number of steps to further strengthen relations between Tajikistan and Pakistan. The construction of Tajik Embassy building inside the diplomatic enclave has already started, which speaks volumes for the close relationship between the two brotherly countries. Mr. Jononov is keen in further expanding and diversifying bilateral relations. His country is especially keen to help Pakistan in the energy sector. Here are excerpts from his interview for readers’ interest.
How would you describe bilateral relations between the two countries?
Let me begin with the recent visit of our State Minister for Reserves who visited Pakistan along with a delegation on December 22-23. During this visit both sides discussed various avenues of cooperation, especially cooperation in the energy sector.
A 5-member Tajikistan delegation led by Nurmahmad Akhmedov, Minister/Chairman Agency on State Material Reserves of Tajikistan, held a meeting with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, discussing matters on enhancement of bilateral trade relations, particularly immediate import of sugar and wheat from Pakistan. Nurmahmad Akhmedov also informed the Finance Minister that they had plans to import crude oil from Kuwait and avail refinery facilities of Pakistan before onward supply to Tajikistan.
Pakistan’s private sector companies were very active in Tajikistan and there were bright prospects of growth in trade and business linkages between the two countries. Tajikistan is a landlocked country which needs better connectivity in the region. Bulk of Tajikistan’s trade takes place through railways and partly by road through Afghanistan. Tajikistan looked to Pakistan for facilitation in transportation. Tajikistan also had plans to avail the facilities at Karachi and Gawadar Ports for trade. Tajikistan has been purchasing wheat, fertilizer and sugar from Pakistan and wished to continue that in future. With the realization of the Pak-Afghan-Tajikistan transit trade agreement, trade between these countries and in the region would flourish.
Federal Minister for Water and Power, Khawaja Muhammad Asif told our delegation that the gas, road, railways and transmission line link between Tajikistan and Pakistan is necessary for the economic interests of the two countries. Our delegation was comprised of Minister of State for Reserves of Tajikistan, Noor Muhammad Akhmedov and other officials.
Let me tell you that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan established diplomatic relationship with the Republic of Tajikistan in 1992 but cooperation between our two countries started from 1991. Geographically Tajikistan is the nearest Central Asian State to Pakistan – there is only fourteen kilometres between two countries.
Following the acquisition of Tajikistan’s independence, our bilateral relations have entered a new phase. Pakistan is one the first countries who recognized the independence of Tajikistan and established diplomatic ties with it, and opened its embassy in Dushanbe in 1993. The Republic of Tajikistan opened its diplomatic mission in Pakistan four years later, in 1997. Thus, bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries started developing in different fields.
Both countries are cooperating with each other at various world forums. Can you tell us something more about this cooperation?
Tajikistan and Pakistan together took part in settlement of regional issues, contribute to building up integration processes within the Organization of Economic Corporation, the Conference for the mutual confidence of the Asian countries and the Shanghai Corporation Organization.
Pakistan really can be a gateway of the Central Asia for trade and commerce and that would be a tremendous source of revenue from the states of this region. From the Pakistan Point-of-view, and equally, it would provide opportunities for Central Asian states such as Tajikistan, to boost cheaper exports.
In relations between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan there is a strong legal base, which covers virtually all areas of bilateral relations. To promote Pak – Tajik bilateral relations, for the last few years, both governments have exchanged high level of diplomatic and trade delegations. Pakistan and Tajikistan have signed more than 30 agreements, protocols and memorandums of understanding (MoU’s) to extend cooperation in energy, communications, insurance, investments and industry, air transport, banking and financial, agricultural and food industry, transport and constructions of roads, science and technology, education, health, tourism, culture on the basis of mutual equality and increase the current level of trade.
Please share with our readers cooperation between two countries to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and religious extremism?
Indeed terrorism, drug trafficking, religious extremism and other transnational crimes pose serious challenges before any country, particularly in our region, and to combat them requires cross-border collaborations. Both sides work on countering regional terrorism, drug trafficking, religious extremism and ensuring stability and security in Asia. Our law-enforcement authorities have a good cooperation links for dealing with all these, so-called “modern threats”.
There is a Joint Economic Commission functioning between the two governments, which conducted Fourth meeting of Joint Commission on commercial, economic, science and technical cooperation between the Republic of Tajikistan and Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Dushanbe on February 28, 2011. By the end of 2005, the Pak-Tajik relations entered into a new era of progress and development with inauguration of Tajik Embassy in Islamabad. Tajikistan opened its embassy in Islamabad in February 2005. The construction of the building of Tajikistan Embassy started in Diplomatic Enclave in 2013.
The activities in the relations restarted and in the result of it, the Lahore Chamber of Commerce House has spent the exhibition of the samples of Pakistan industry with two trade centers, in Dushanbe and Khujand cities of Tajikistan.
Gwadar port can further bring Tajikistan and Pakistan closer. Can you share more details in this regard?
Tajikistan is in a dire need of access to the world through Pakistani port like Gwadar.
For the advancement of the communication projects, the government has adopted strategy to construct new highways and bridges to link Tajikistan with neighbouring countries. Opening the highways of Kulob – Khorugh – Kulma-Karakorum , Istiqlol Tunnel, 4 bridges between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, reconstruction of Dushanbe – Qurghonteppa highway and also the construction of Dushanbe – Nurobod – Jirgatol – Saritosh are considered as positive steps for the communication advancement. The realization of these projects will help Tajikistan’s access to the ports of Pakistan.
What are the salient features of the “open door policy’ announced by the President of Tajikistan?
In order to improve and promote the mutually beneficial relations with foreign countries, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan announced the strategy of “open door policy”, which is considered as successful one.
The Republic of Tajikistan has diplomatic relations with more than 130 countries of the world and has the full membership in more than 40 regional and international organizations. Nowadays, about 30 countries have their embassies in Tajikistan.