Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that peace in Afghanistan is crucial as Pakistan seeks to open trade doors into the Central Asian states, stressing on the Trans Afghan Rail Project as an important component of connectivity and a tool to enhance living standards in the region.
The prime minister, during his address at the Uzbekistan-Pakistan Business Forum on Thursday, said that the Trans Afghan Railway is the “most important project” for both countries.
“The connection between us and the people of Uzbekistan goes back centuries,” said PM Imran. “But how our business and trade relationships evolve depends on how quickly we connect with each other physically,” he said, referring to the Trans Afghan Railway Project.
The Trans Afghan Rail is an ambitious project that seeks to connect Pakistan and Uzbekistan via Afghanistan, and later, other Central Asian countries could also potentially become part.
This project will enable cargo service between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. Last year, PM Khan signed a joint appeal, urging the World Bank to invest around $4.8 billion in the rail link.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said that both Uzbekistan and Pakistan are “extremely keen” that there is peace in Afghanistan.
“We are all hoping for a political settlement to take place there. Connectivity through Afghanistan would be hugely beneficial for all of us.”
Citing the example of the European Union, PM Imran said that the increase in trade between neighbouring countries raise the standard of living.
He also informed that Pakistan’s textile sector has already established contacts with the Uzbekistan business community. “We are also hopeful of increasing the frequency of flights between us both.”
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman earlier arrived on Thursday on his maiden visit to Uzbekistan on the invitation of its President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf and other members of the Cabinet, along with a large group of Pakistan’s leading businessmen.
During his two-day official visit, the PM will hold meetings with the Uzbekistan leadership and exchange views on regional and international issues, as well as hold talks on trade, economic cooperation, and connectivity.
A number of agreements are also expected to be signed in diverse areas, the Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement earlier.
“In his interactions during the visit, the prime minister will highlight the vision of ‘Naya Pakistan’, Pakistan’s positive contribution to peace and security at the regional and international level, and the shift from geo-politics to geo-economics,” the FO added.
The premier will also participate in the International Conference on ‘Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities’. The conference will be attended by ministers and high representatives from Central and South Asian countries as well as from international organizations, international financial institutions, think-tanks and scholars.