We must have a trilateral trade agreement

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ARTICLE : Dr Zubaydullo N. Zubaydov, Ambassador of Republic of Tajikistan in Pakistan in an exclusive interview with aBusiness Recorderpanel comprising BR Islamabad Resident Editor Anjum Ibrahim and staff reporters Wasim Iqbal and Aisha Sadaf says that Tajikistan has never opposed Pakistan s membership to the Shanghai Co-operation Organization.

He adds that Central Asia South Asia (CASA) 1000 power project has full support of
US administration and the World Bank and that inking a trilateral agreement (Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) is critical to boosting trade between the two countries. The Ambassador reveals that the operation of a weekly direct flight from Islamabad to Dushanbe has commenced and Tajikistan will hold a forum for Pakistani businessmen from 18-20 July 2010. The following are excerpts from the interview:Business Recorder:Is Tajikistan as a member of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) supporting Pakistan s elevation from observer status to full membership? Dr Zubaydullo N. Zubaydov: SCO, till recently, had no mechanism to expand membership to other countries.However, in the last meeting held at Tashkent, a formula for membership was formulated that entails a process. Hopefully Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, India and Belarus will be declared members of this Organization in the coming meetings. Tajikistan and all the other six members have never opposed Pakistan s membership to the SCO.BR: CASA power project has the capacity to significantly contribute to Pakistan s energy needs? Is there international support for it?

ZNZ: It has the full backing of the
US administration, World Bank and some other international donor agencies. However, both Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank backed out of the project after initial interest.

BR: What are
Tajikistan s water related issues with neighbouring Uzbekistan?

ZNZ: The core issue between
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is the construction of Rogun Dam that actually began in 1998. Rogun, when completed, would be the largest hydro power project if all the former Soviet Republics are considered with a capacity to generate 4000 MW electricity and with an export potential of 2000 MW that would not only meet the power needs of Afghanistan and Pakistan but also generate foreign exchange for us. Uzbekistan, as the lower riparian country argues that if the dam is built it would affect the flow of water into Uzbek territory. Tajikistan has assured the Uzbek government that this will not happen after all we use no more than 6 percent of our water resources. Uzbekistan blocked entry of building materials into Tajikistan for five months. However, United Nations and notably Iran intervened. Iran has its own interest in ending the Uzbek blockade as some Iranian power companies are engaged in constructing water reservoirs in Tajikistan as well as constructing Sanguda Dam with a capacity of 3000 MW.

BR: What are the political, economic and trade ties between
Tajikistan and Pakistan since the collapse of USSR?

Pakistan and Tajikistan are brotherly countries and have a common history. Both countries have good political, economic and trade ties. Pakistan has played a vital role in restoring peace and stability in Tajikistan. Two peace conferences were held in 1993 and 1994 at Islamabad during Pakistan People s Party s government. Our President has also played a key role in ending our long civil war and taking the economy back on track in the short span of one year. He has supported a strategy of political reconciliation which has assisted in not only bringing peace to the country but also in bringing back all Tajik refugees who fled the country during civil war to the neighbouring countries.

BR: What is the current volume of trade between
Pakistan and Tajikistan and what measures do you suggest to boost trade?

ZNZ: We must have a trilateral trade agreement between
Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. No doubt trade between Tajikistan and Pakistan has gathered momentum during the last two years but the main beneficiary has been Afghanistan. For example each month Pakistan exports around 50,000 tons of cement to Tajikistan. By the time the trucks arrive in Tajikistan the price of cement has become three times as much and the difference is being pocketed by the Afghan truckers. A trilateral agreement would put a stop to such profiteering. We require full support of the government of Pakistan to ink such an agreement. Currently, Tajikistan exports cotton, aluminium, fresh and dry fruits to Pakistan.

BR: How can trade be further promoted between the two countries?

ZNZ: I am happy to tell you that there is now a direct flight between
Islamabad and Dushanbe which I am hopeful would boost trade and tourism. It operates once a week, on Saturday. A business forum of Pakistani businessmen at Dushanbe will take place from 18 to 20 July 2010. I hope that the business community of Pakistan joins us in making this forum a success as it would provide them with a rare opportunity to directly interact with Tajik business community, without involving any third party.

BR: Is there a joint strategy for the two countries to deal with terrorism and smuggling of illegal weapons and drugs through Afghan border?

Pakistan and Tajikistan have good co-ordination to counter terrorism, illegal trade of weapons and drugs. In a recent visit to Dushanbe Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik and his Tajik counterpart signed an agreement to further strengthen co-operation in a fruitful exchange of intelligence. Earlier, Chairman of state security of Tajikistan came to Pakistan and signed an agreement with his counterpart and other law enforcement agencies on security.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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