Azerbaijan is a reliable and strategic partner of Pakistan | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

19 February, Tuesday


Azerbaijan is a reliable and strategic partner of Pakistan

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Azerbaijan, apparently, is one of the very rare countries today helping Pakistan in times of need. In October 2018, Azerbaijan officially agreed to offer a $100 million line of credit to Pakistan so as to help address growing energy shortages and ensure the supply of Azeri oil and oil-based products such as natural gas. In the preceding month, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjran, Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan – i.e. the upper house of the Pakistani Legislature – visited Azerbaijan to participate in celebrations of the Azerbaijani Parliament’s 100th anniversary.

The celebrations were held with much fanfare both within the country and in other countries – including the US – with whom Azerbaijan shares a close relationship. Such high-level political visits between both countries have become the new norm, a trend that has gained momentum since the former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff’s visit to Azerbaijan in October 2016.

In October 2018, a delegation of Pakistani Armed Forces led by Brigadier General Reyhan visited Azerbaijan to discuss bilateral military cooperation – especially in the area of public relations and moral-psychological training of both armies. The visit has been instrumental in ending longstanding denials regarding the sale of JF-17 Thunder jets (Joint Fighter-17) by Pakistan to Azerbaijan.

The news has found wide media coverage in both Pakistan and Azerbaijan; however the international strategic community – including military experts from India closely following Pakistan’s strategic matters – largely remain uninformed about this development.

Azerbaijan trusts Pakistan as a solid partner for it was among the first countries to recognise Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991. Pakistan has also never established diplomatic relations with Armenia. This growing strategic military cooperation between Pakistan and Azerbaijan is premised on a protocol on bilateral military cooperation signed on March 31st, 2015, which subsequently led to signing of the “Book of Honour” on November 24th, 2017.

This rising political-military cooperation has led to the development of economic ties between both countries, including in the area of private business. According to the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan, bilateral trade amounted to $8.34 million in the period between January and September 2018. This volume of said trade was of $5.2 million in 2017 and $7.3 million in 2016.

Pakistan has contributed most to this bilateral trade by exporting both raw and manufactured commodities – from potatoes, rice, onions, and tomatoes to garments, pharmaceuticals and various medical products. Azerbaijan increased exports of oil and energy-related products to Pakistan so as to enable the country to cope with its acute energy shortages

There are about 270 companies funded by the Pakistani capital registered in Azerbaijan; these are spread across a wide range of sectors – including logistics, communications, education, etc. – and have so far invested $4.2 million in the host country’s economy.

Another noticeable aspect of this emerging cooperation is the rising number of Pakistani tourists visiting Azerbaijan. Recent years have witnessed a growing number of Pakistanis coming to Azerbaijan for business and leisure purposes.

In 2018, the number of Pakistani tourists visiting Azerbaijan is likely to have crossed 25,000. In 2017 the exact number of Pakistani tourists entering Azerbaijan was 17,556; only 3,800 did so in 2016.

Azerbaijan and Pakistan have shared deep socio-cultural connections in both ancient and medieval times. The Baku Ateshgah, an ancient Zoroastrian Temple, is a fine example of this fact. However,

The international community – both in the region and across the globe – should consider following Azerbaijan’s example and constructively engage with Pakistan. In this context criticisms regarding the newly-elected government’s current shortcomings in dealing with the country’s prevailing economic (and social) crisis are perhaps best refrained from for the time being. Failing to do so would push Pakistan further into the Chinese camp – while Islamist terrorism remains unchecked.

 

Written by Hriday Ch. Sarma - Fellow with the South Asia Democratic Forum

The full version of the article was published in South Asia Democratic Forum.

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