By Fikret Dolukhanov (Baku)
Azerbaijan and Pakistan intend to develop cooperation in all spheres, in particular, the two countries consider opening direct air traffic communication, while Pakistan may join the international transport corridors passing through the territory of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan Embassy in Pakistan announced citing the country’s envoy to Islamabad Ali Alizade.
The ambassador said that Azerbaijan is extremely interested in expanding cooperation in the trade and economic sphere with Pakistan. He said that many joint projects are being carried out between the countries and exhibitions are being held. He said that there are about 300 Pakistani companies and businessmen in Azerbaijan.
Trade and economic relations between the countries have recently been developing at quite a high rate. For 11 months of 2018, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Pakistan increased by 30.92 percent and amounted to $9,942.15 thousand ($7,594.26 thousand a year before), of which $704.69 accounted to exports from Azerbaijan, and $9,237.46 thousand – on imports from Pakistan.
The ambassador also spoke about the favorable conditions created in Azerbaijan for foreign investors in agricultural, industrial and technological parks, the work of economic zones, international transport corridors passing through the territory of Azerbaijan, and the possibilities for Pakistan joining them.
Pakistan’s accession to the integration projects initiated by Azerbaijan has often been on the bilateral agenda recently. On October 30, 2017, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which was built on the basis of the Azerbaijani-Georgian-Turkish interstate agreement, was opened at the Baku International Sea Trade Port. At the initial stage, the volume of freight will be at the level of 6.5 million tons of cargo, and up to one million passengers will be transported.
A month later, on November 30, 2017, it was announced that Pakistan could use the BTK railway to transport various goods. The corresponding statement was made by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif.
Pakistan can join the BTK through connection of the railway to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) transport corridor, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Hajibala Abutalybov said back in mid-October 2018.
In addition, since the end of 2017, negotiations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan have been held on connection to the North-South transport corridor project. The corridor is to become a link in the railway transport between Azerbaijan, Iran and the Russian Federation.
Continuing to talk about the development of the Azerbaijan-Pakistan relations, Ambassador Alizade touched upon expanding opportunities for mutual investments, and also noted that the strategic partnership relations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan contribute to cooperation in economic, trade, military-technical, energy, tourism and other spheres.
Over the past year, he said, the number of Pakistani tourists visiting Azerbaijan has significantly increased. In this regard, the ambassador emphasized that the two countries are discussing the possibility of opening direct flights, which will undoubtedly contribute even more to the growth of tourist traffic.
Pakistani tourists have been among the top priorities for Azerbaijan’s tour operators in 2018. The number of guests from Pakistan has been increasing from year to year. In 2017, the number of Pakistani tourists in Azerbaijan increased over four-fold from 3,998 people to 17,579 people. In 2017-2018, as stated by the Azerbaijani Embassy in Pakistan, the number of Pakistani tourists visiting Azerbaijan has increased more than eight times.
Alizade also said that the military cooperation between the two countries is a priority, since both countries suffer from terrorism and extremism and always support each other.
In his speech, the ambassador reminded that Armenia occupied the territories of Azerbaijan, carrying out ethnic cleansing, pursuing a policy of destroying religious and cultural monuments, and still does not recognize the resolutions adopted by international organizations.
The ambassador concluded that Azerbaijan always supports fraternal Pakistan.
Over the past decade, Pakistani military experts have trained approximately a hundred Azerbaijani military units. Azerbaijan is currently negotiating with Pakistan on the purchase of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets. In 2019-2020, mass production of JF-17 Block 3 fighters is planned. Azerbaijan is also interested in purchasing Super Mushak fighters.
On September 25, 2018, Pakistan took part in the 3rd Azerbaijan International Defense Exhibition ADEX 2018. Azerbaijan, in turn, participated in the four-day military exhibition IDEAS 2018 in Karachi in the late November 2018.
It should be noted that the strong strategic relations between the two countries have been established since the very moment Azerbaijan gained independence from the USSR. Both states describe their diplomatic relations as “friendly and fraternal”. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan on December 12, 1991.
Pakistan supports the position of Azerbaijan in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Azerbaijan supports Pakistan in the dispute over Kashmir. Pakistan is the only country in the world that still does not recognize Armenia.