In a special interview ahead of the 17th anniversary of Uzbekistan Independence on September 1, Umanov said Pakistan and Uzbekistan had great potential to increase bilateral economic, political, cultural and diplomatic ties. He said, “Trilateral agreement will help increase volume of bilateral trade.”
He said the two countries had already signed more than 29 agreements and MOUs. He was optimistic for enhancement in joint ventures and FDI. He said an agreement on transit trade, signed by former prime minister Shaukat Aziz in Tashkent, had opened broad perspectives for exchange of trade.
The ambassador said first Pakistani truck of Pak Caspian Trade Links Company reached Uzbekistan on 17 April 2008 and opened up a corridor for transit cargo to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan through Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The truck carried Pakistani products through Afghanistan to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and brought back goods and chemicals from Uzbekistan.
He said Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to establish joint ventures in textile, pharmaceutical and leather industries and exchanging technology to be used in healthcare sector on March 8 last year during the third session of Pak-Uzbekistan Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC).
He said Pakistan and Uzbekistan could cooperate in tourism and Uzbekistan Airways had already started regular commercial flights (two-three times a week) between Lahore and Tashkent. More than 20 Pakistani tourist companies had signed MOUs with Uzbek companies, he added.
He said both countries were considering possible options for cooperation to exploit energy, particularly gas, in the near future, adding Uzbekistan had already been supplying electricity to seven northern provinces of Afghanistan. “So it is a matter of time and negotiations to extent these supplies to Pakistan,” he said. He said Uzbekistan had confirmed stocks of gold, copper, natural gas, tungsten, potassium salts, phosphorus, kaolin and both countries could use these items for bilateral benefit. He said Uzbekistan had been undergoing a process of reforms to modernise, democratise and liberalise all spheres of political and economic life besides making judiciary independent and ensuring human rights. He said Uzbekistan’s GDP growth rate accounted for 9.5 percent in 2007 and volumes of its industrial and agricultural production had increased by 12.1 percent and 6.1 percent respectively. He said cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Shakhrisabz and Tashkent were symbols of Muslim beauty and that the country had potential for production of agricultural raw materials.
He said the country was celebrating 2008 as ‘Year of Youth’ on a proposal of President Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan stood at number three on ‘Social Protection Index for Asian Countries’, prepared by the ADB covering 31 countries, he said. He said Uzbeks had made contributions towards development of world producing great scientists, philosophers, thinkers, religious leaders, commanders and rulers. He said both countries enjoyed cordial relations since the independence of Uzbekistan in 1991. Apart from historical, ethnic, cultural and Islamic bonds, regional cooperation also fostered cooperation between the two countries, he said.
He said he loved Pakistan, which was just like a home away from home for him. “I have good memories of my previous stay in Karachi and my recent visits to Lahore, Peshawar, Mardan, Badin, Sialkot, Faisalabad, and Changa Manga,” he said.
The ambassador said Pakistan was historically and culturally a rich country and its people were great, hardworking, decent and cooperative. Umanov called for more academic and cultural exchange programmes between the two countries. “In this regard, MoUs were signed between International Islamic University Islamabad and Tashkent Islamic University Uzbekistan and Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar Pakistan and Institute of Oriental Studies Academy of Sciences, Tashkent,” he said.