Uzbekistan wanted access to Pakistani ports
Prime Minister Imran Khan assured Uzbekistan to provide full support in accessing Pakistani ports on Wednesday.
Mr. Khan discussed the assurance during a conversation with Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, who was on a two-day visit to Pakistan.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office after the meeting Mr. Khan said that Pakistan’s Karachi and Gwadar ports could become “the access point to the landlocked Central Asia as Pakistan have facilitated the Central Asian Republics through the shortest route to international seas.” Pakistan would facilitate Uzbekistan’s access to its ports, he added.
Uzbekistan at present, depends on Iranian seaport of Bandar Abbas for external trade, and is reviewing alternate options. It is prioritising Pakistani ports due to short distance, being more reasonable and because of some political considerations.
Currently, Uzbekistan is working with Pakistan on the progress of two options. The first is the Trans-Afghan railway project while the other is the road route via China.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan in Tashkent in February had signed a workplan for the construction of around 600km of Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway line. The project is likely to take five years for completion at an estimated cost of $4.8 billion, and has the support of international lending agencies including the World Bank.
Mr. Khan welcomed the proposed Trans-Afghan railway project and emphasized on country’s commitment to support all efforts for the earliest accomplishment of this important connectivity project.
In the meantime, Uzbekistan has been hoping for acceptance to the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA), an agreement between China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to facilitate transit traffic and trade. The country has been standing with Uzbekistan in this matter, as well.
The road project under this agreement would provide an alternative route between Pakistan and Central Asia while bypassing Afghanistan through the Karakoram Highway which connects Gilgit-Baltistan to China’s Xinjiang region and also to Central Asia.
Dr. Kamilov’s visit was also aimed at regional connectivity and he invited Mr. Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to be a part of Central Asia-South Asia Connectivity Conference in Tashkent in July.
Mr. Khan updated Dr. Kamilov that he looked forward to visiting Uzbekistan and that his government was desirous of enhanced trade, and regional connectivity.