Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Sustainable peace in Afghanistan has regional as well as international ramifications which will definitely further enhance regional connectivity, trade activities and economy and commerce too. Regional countries especially, Uzbekistan and Pakistan have played tremendous role to bring peace in Afghanistan through negotiations, track-II diplomacy, dialogue and development.
Uzbekistan first president Islam Karimov proposed “6+3 Contact Group” to resolve the issue of Afghanistan. It was initiated during NATO/EAPC Summit in Bucharest in April 2008. Islam Karimov proposed five vital of stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan.
A trilateral summit was held in Istanbul and Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan actively participated in the summit. The government of Pakistan initiated the new formula i.e. six plus two formula in the summit. Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, all immediate neighbours of Afghanistan had to be consulted to bring peace in Afghanistan. Russia and the US would also be part of six plus two formula. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Afghanistan’s six immediate neighbours, as well as China and Russia.
Right from the beginning, Uzbekistan has desired to find a “workable” formula to win hearts and souls of people of Afghanistan through “intensive” “economic cooperation” at least with the northern regions of Afghanistan, successful implementation of transport and logistics projects, and the expansion of educational programs.
Tashkent was succeeded to achieve bilateral cooperation with Kabul through the implementation of various befitting economic propositions and meaningful logistics projects to further enhance regional connectivity.
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan adapted new “holistic” approach towards resolution of Afghanistan issue and introduced new “innovative” and result oriented strategies to bring peace in Afghanistan.
Tashkent has been cooperating with international main stakeholders and offers various projects in different sectors i.e. economic, logistics, education, etc., and even considers prospects for organizing negotiations between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban on its soil.
Tashkent has been trying to act in all directions of the foreign policy on Afghan issue by covering the maximum number of spheres i.e. in terms of bilateral relations, there has been rigorous sincere efforts of initiating ambitious and large-scale projects, reformation/redesigning of national priority towards Afghanistan, rebuilding the dialogue with the international community and systematic efforts to further enhance soft power image projection and separation of its regional Central Asian agenda from the Afghan one.
By all means Pakistan has had been important to bring peace in Afghanistan. Singing of latest peace deal between the US and Taliban at Doha “reconfirmed” positive and “participatory” role of government of Pakistan in the peace process of Afghanistan.
The government of Pakistan and armed forces are doing their levels best to support the West and especially the US to curb the terrorist incidents. The successful military operations in the tribal areas by Pakistan’s armed forces spoke louder than words and showed our commitment to fight against terrorism.
President Mirziyoyev followed a holistic approach towards Afghanistan and strongly “discarded” a “military solution”. He facilitated peace talks between all parties of the conflict, and implemented economic projects. In 2017, the position of President’s Special Representative on Afghanistan was introduced. This step aimed at promoting Afghan vector into a separate sphere of Uzbek foreign policy.
Economic cooperation with Afghanistan focused on a number of aspects: infrastructure construction, energy, and trade. Uzbekistan opened customs point in Termez to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, restored 11 bridges between Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul. With the support of ADB, the Hairatan-Mazar-i-Sharif railway was constructed.
Uzbekistan also showed keen interest in the construction of the “Mazar-i-Sharif-Herat” railway in the framework of the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor project. In addition, Uzbekistan has become a leading electricity supplier to Afghanistan. In 2009, the “Guzar-Surkhan” transmission line was initiated, which increased the supply to 300 MW. As a result, its electricity supplies reached to 1.5 billion kW / h of electricity to Afghanistan by 2016.
Uzbekistan held a conference on Afghanistan in Tashkent during March 2018 which subsequently emerged a useful platform to restart stalemate talks and prompted track-II diplomacy. It pioneered the Kabul process, the Moscow format, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, etc. However, the high turnout from the international community allowed Uzbekistan to emerge from the shadow.
The activities of Uzbekistan over the past 3 years suggest that the Afghan strategy is based mainly on a combination of economic and soft power image projection. Stability in Afghanistan and at least in the northern regions is important for promoting its economic expansion.
Uzbekistan is interested in playing a greater economic role in Afghanistan. The Surkhan-Puli Khumri energy project aimed at increasing the delivery of electricity from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan, and a transportation project to extend the existing Hairatan-Mazar-i-Sharif railroad to Herat. The latter project has a long-term implication for Tashkent, because once realized the railroad will become the shortest route for the country’s goods to reach a sea port.
Uzbekistan-Pakistan bilateral relations has been further strengthened during recent times because of the better political understanding, improvement in bilateral trade, phenomenal rise to tourism and the last but not the least joint efforts to bring peace and harmony in the region.
Uzbekistan Foreign Minister H.E. Abdulaziz Kamilov visited Pakistan and met with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Prime Minister Imran Khan. During his stay he thoroughly discussed means and ways to non-military solution in Afghanistan, increase in trade and commerce and enhance bilateral cooperation in diversified sectors of economy.
Both foreign ministers conducted a purposeful joint press conference which showed high level of political understanding, strong commitments to achieve desired goals of socio-economic prosperity and connectivity through peace and harmony in the region, connecting through rail corridor, investments in diverse sectors of economy, tourism and other befitting propositions between the two countries. It also showed Uzbekistan sincere efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan through regional resolve, dialogue and development.
Speaking at a joint news conference Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi said both the countries shared views on Afghanistan. They expressed the resolve to further enhance bilateral cooperation to promote peace and stability in the region.
Qureshi said both countries shared common views on Afghanistan as they feel that there was no military solution to the Afghan problem. He added: “We are prepared to facilitate and support the dialogue process in Afghanistan.” Both Pakistan and Uzbekistan want peace in Afghanistan and were willing to support the efforts he added. Pakistan is ready to promote connectivity in the region for the benefit of our people, he said.
The Foreign Office says that the visit strengthened meaningful deliberations in all areas of bilateral cooperation including political, security & defence cooperation, peace process in Afghanistan as well as trade and investment promotion. Areas of mutual interest for future collaboration were also identified, including agriculture, tourism and cultural cooperation.
On his part, Uzbek FM Abdulaziz Kamilov said Pakistan, as a regional power, can play role in guaranteeing regional peace and stability. The minister said: “Pakistan and Uzbekistan have common views on regional security, especially peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
Uzbek FM Kamilov acknowledged Pakistan’s vital role in the fight against terrorism and its efforts to bring peace and stability to the region. He said the two countries have a common approach to encouraging the peace process in Afghanistan, combating terrorism and facing other challenges.
Uzbekistan Foreign Minister H.E. Abdulaziz Kamilov also called on Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan at Prime Minister’s Office. Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his strong desire to see rapid increase in economic cooperation with Uzbekistan.
- Being prominent regional expert of Uzbekistan & CIS, I humbly suggest that President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev should pay official visit to Pakistan so that regional equation of power may be in favour of both the sides. Pakistan is the only easy and shortest gate-way to Central Asia and base of “CPEC and One Road One Belt” which should not be ignored.
- There should be a closed mechanism at the highest level for political consultations on the issue and emerging trends in Afghanistan so that both countries should play positive and contributory role to bring peace.
- Pakistan also provides immense opportunities of greater regional connectivity which government of Uzbekistan should be tapped for a win-win situation for both sides. Gwadar seaport has been activated and in this connection first cargo consignment of Afghanistan transit trade reached from Afghanistan. Uzbekistan may consider utilizing its seaport for its greater sustainable connectivity with South East Asia.
- Uzbekistan shows great interest to build Hairatan-Mazar-i-Sharif railway and Pakistan under the framework of the CPEC has approved US$6.5 billion Railway M1 mega project. Both countries should explore befitting propositions to extend cooperation in the fields of construction and railways.
- Energy sector would create win-win propositions for both the countries so both countries should also explored chances of joint ventures in the mix of energy power generation in the days to come.
- Close liaison in the field of agro economy is the need of the hour. Both countries have comparative advantages in the production of cotton which must be clubbed to initiate a joint venture in textile and garments. Uzbekistan blesses with colored cotton which should be shared with Pakistan.
- President Mirziyoyev has initiated the “Strategy for the Further Development of Uzbekistan 2017-2021”. It is indeed a blue print of its socio-economic development in the next five years. It highlighted five principles i.e. improvement of state construction, economic liberalization, development of the social sphere and implementation of active foreign policy. Due to which now Uzbekistan is on the right path to achieve the desired goals of socio-economic prosperity, further politicization, democratization, greater attraction of FDIs, and the last but not the least people and business friendly bureaucracy in the country.
- Government of Uzbekistan should consider joining CPEC which will bring immense socio-economic, geopolitical and geo-strategic dividends to macro-economy of it.
- Center for Global & Strategic Studies has the capacity and expertise to create bridges of better understanding among all the main stakeholders to expedite desired socio-economic integration in the sectors of construction, energy, agricultural, industries, tourism and above all people-to-people contact. CGSS is the prime institute of policy and public diplomacy too for which both countries should take advantage. Moreover, its proven specialty in the Euro-Asian Region would be value-addition to disseminate falsified propaganda of the west and make a trustworthy and heart-to-heart connection, vital for achieving all desired goals of greater regional connectivity, greater socio-economic prosperity, tourism and above all business development.