Historically bounded states: Azerbaijan and Pakistan - Interview by Sana Imran (Exclusive) - PHOTOS | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

15 December, Saturday


Historically bounded states: Azerbaijan and Pakistan - Interview by Sana Imran (Exclusive) - PHOTOS

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Azerbaijan and Pakistan hold high-level diplomatic relations. Apart from political connections, the similarities and common features exist between both nations.

Eurasia Diary took an interview by Sana Imran for the making imagination of the ties between Azerbaijan and Pakistan for the readers 

Sana Imran is a former diplomat, academician and marketing expert from Pakistan, who is pursuing her doctorate from Khazar University of Azerbaijan. Her areas of interest are marketing, management, political affair and education.

It is nice to see you back in Baku. What is the purpose of your current visit?

I am really glad to be back in Baku – The City of Winds. This is in fact my third visit in last two years. Every time I have come to Baku, it has fascinated me more than the previous time. Not only Baku but Sheki, Genja, Guba, Gusar and Gakh, all are most beautiful places that make Azerbaijan a dream tourist destination. My current visit is in relation to the Doctorate degree that I am pursuing from a local university at Baku. Topic for my research is “Role of Brands in Construction of National Identity”, where I have attempted to highlight the impact of national brands on the identity and image of the nations. As a case study, I have selected Azerbaijan-The Land of Fire. In my research, I have taken stock of the good practices, which Azerbaijani Government is ensuring to project Azeri image across the globe in a befitting manner.

How do you feel being in Azerbaijan? What changes have you observed since you left last year?

As I told you that being in Baku is always nostalgic for me. I have loads of good memories attached to our stay in Baku, which was spread over three years as Pakistani diplomats. As far as the changes are concerned, Baku has come up very well during the last decade. The pace of development picked up prior to Eurovision Song Contest-2012, gained momentum before the ADEX-2014 and European Olympics-2015 and was consolidated short of European Formula One Grand Prix in 2016. Still, one gets to see numerous developmental projects being undertaken at Baku with style and traditional elegance. I have travelled around thirty countries of the world in four different continents. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Baku is one of the best emerging capitals of the world.

You monitor Azerbaijan-Pakistan relations very closely. What is your take on this relationship?

The historical bonds, cultural affinities and social similarities bring the people of two states together not as friends but as brothers. Pakistan was amongst first three countries to recognize Azerbaijan. Pakistan has never developed any diplomatic relations with Armenia-the arch rival of Azerbaijan. Pakistani Parliament was the first to term Khojaly tragedy as “Genocide”. Pakistan’s diplomatic support to Azerbaijan remains almost guaranteed, at all regional and international forums. President and Prime Minister of Pakistan visited Azerbaijan in 2015 and 2016 respectively. On the other hand, President of Republic of Azerbaijan HE Ilham Aliyev visited Islamabad in 2017. Azerbaijan is a member of OIC Contact Group on Kashmir and has supported Pakistan at all forums.   People of Azerbaijan love their Pakistani brethren and value bilateral relationship to be one of its kind. During earthquake-2015, Azerbaijan provided relief goods to Pakistan. All this indicates that Pakistan-Azerbaijan relationship is based on mutual trust, religious affinities and shared socio-cultural values. Quite often, high level delegations are exchanged between the two countries. Most recently Chief of State Border Service of Azerbaijan Colonel General Elchin Guliyev visited Islamabad, where he interacted with top civilian and military leadership of Pakistan. As of today, Azeri Air Force Chief Lieutenant General Ramiz Tahirov is in Pakistan to attend a defence exhibition. Given the ongoing constructive engagement between two brotherly Muslim states, such relations are going to strengthen the bond further. President of Pakistan HE Arif Alavi said in a statement that “Pakistan greatly values the close and cordial fraternal relations with Azerbaijan and desires the further enhancement of bilateral relations in all fields”.

What are your comments about the issue of Nagorno Karabakh? How does this issue impact on South Caucasian region?

In my reckoning, the issue of Nagorno Karabakh is the biggest tragedy of this region. Forced occupation of 20% Azeri lands for almost quarter a century by Armenia is “illegal, unethical and against all international norms and traditions”. Four approved yet unimplemented UN resolutions exhibit non serious attitude of world community besides selective treatment to the conflicts that Muslim Ummah confronts. I would like to mention here that in our part of the world, Kashmir remains an unresolved agenda of partition between Pakistan and India. Akin to Azerbaijan, 4 x UNSC resolutions passed in Pakistan’s favour on Kashmir remain unimplemented despite a lapse of 70 years. Given the volatility and frustration attached to Nagorno Karabakh conflict, it is assessed to be the biggest security threat faced by the region and beyond. Azerbaijan despite its military and economic prowess, has shown commendable restraint as it remains open to negotiations and mediatory efforts at all times. Unfortunately, however, Armenian attitude has historically remained stubborn and inflexible. It is time that the world community particularly OSCE Minsk Group put in concerted efforts to find a sustained solution to the problem, within territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and in line with UNSC resolutions that demand immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of  Armenian forces from occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

Importance of developing infrastructure, connectivity & logistic hubs cannot be overemphasized. How can the two countries cooperate in this regard?

The way Azerbaijan is turning into a regional transport and logistic hub in Eurasia is a success story. Conception, execution and management of gigantic projects like TANAP, TAP and SCP (commonly known as “Southern Gas Corridor”) and “Baku International Sea Trade Port” with the provision of “Free Trade Zone” afford ominous opportunities for the industrial development. As far as digital connectivity is concerned, Azerbaijan is pursuing high-tech projects like Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway (TASIM) which affords smooth and speedy flow of data from Hong Kong to Frankfurt. In nutshell, recent achievements of Azerbaijan in the domains of industrial growth, infrastructure development and tourism are worth emulating. At the same time, I would like to share a few words about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (commonly known as CPEC), in which Pakistan acts as the lynchpin. CPEC is the only bilateral infrastructure development project out of six such corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China. BRI is the future and infrastructure development and connectivity is the shared objective of concerned 64 countries of the world. While strong ties do exist between Pakistan and Azerbaijan in the military and military technical spheres, there is a need to extend this cooperation to all walks of life. Pakistan wants to enhance bilateral cooperation in multi-disciplines with focus on trade and business, which has lot of potential that can be realized and tapped appropriately. The two countries should benefit from each other’s’ experiences and expertise in the respective domains. Pakistan can assist Azerbaijan in improved trade regime, while Azerbaijan can provide much needed support to Pakistan in the energy sector

What measures are needed to improve the bilateral relations between two brotherly states?

While the Government of two states have highly cordial relations existing at the top level, there is a requirement to increase people to people contacts. Although three business forums have been held during last three years on bilateral formats, still the true trade potential has not be actualized. Resumption of direct flight and visa relaxation can help in attracting more businessmen, trade delegations and tourists to and from Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan and Azerbaijan should work together to improve road, rail and air connectivity. Platform of ECO can be used for this purpose or else a tripartite commission involving Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Iran can be formulated. With revival of RCD Highway and railway track, connectivity between Turkey and Pakistan via Azerbaijan and Iran should also be ensured. Pakistan mulls Azerbaijan and Turkey as dependable security partners under fast evolving geo-strategic milieu. Trilateral cooperation between Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey can be a welcoming step that boosts regional peace, security and harmony. For the participating countries, such an alliance is likely to afford strategic cushion. Strategically, the interconnection of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) can be a historic step which will connect South Asia with Central Asia and West Asia. If this century presumably is the Asian Century, such an interconnection will herald shared prosperity and economic wellbeing of Asian countries.

Geo-strategic location & energy resources of Azerbaijan make it an important country of Central Asia. Pakistan enjoys similar edge in South Asia. How can the two states benefit from geography?

The geostrategic location of Azerbaijan distinguishes it from its South Caucasian and Central Asian neighbours. Blessed with a unique geo-strategic location, Azerbaijan is the safest route for the energy riches of Caspian Sea to reach Europe without having to cross through Russia or Iran. Europe remains concerned about oil and gas pricing and transportation policies of Russia and Iran, therefore, European keenness and reliance on Azeri energy riches is expected to continue in foreseeable future. Armenian occupation of 20% Azeri land for quarter a century signifies the importance of “Ganja Gap”, which is a narrow 60-mile-wide chokepoint for trade. Existence of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Supsa oil pipeline and the emergence of TANAP, TAP and SCP gas pipelines adds credence to Azerbaijan’s geo-strategic and geo-economic importance. Pakistan, on the other hand, is situated at the gateway to South Asia. Pakistan serves as the lynch pin of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the only bilateral and flagship project of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pakistan has land frontiers with China, India, Iran and Afghanistan and its role in emerging geo-political order cannot be underestimated. It is in this vain that geography seems to be working in favour of Pakistan & Azerbaijan and the two country should play this factor well in respective foreign policies.

In your reckoning, what is the best thing about Azerbaijani society? 

In a single sentence, it is the tolerant and multicultural outlook of Azeri society, which has no tolerance for discrimination on the basis of faith, culture, ethnicity or social beliefs. As a matter of fact, Azerbaijan has become one of the centers of multiculturalism in the world.  Its strength is in unity and diversity serves as a force multiplier. Moderate and pluralistic outlook leads to a happy and peace-loving Azeri nation. One can notice very pleasantly, the existence of mosques, churches and synagogues that are afforded state patronage for protection, preservation and maintenance. This atmosphere of cordiality and stability reinforces Azerbaijan’s perception as a regional country. Interestingly, Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe as well as Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). Such a fusion of eastern traditions with western modernity distinguishes Azerbaijan from its regional peers.

What message would you like to give to Azeri students? 

I am associated with the profession of teaching for a long time now. As far as my interaction with Azeri students is concerned, I find them brilliant, innovative and energetic. With right focus, improved commitment and seriousness of purpose, youth of Azerbaijan can perform marvelously. Government of Azerbaijan is also determined to transform black gold into human capital. It is in this context that currently thousands of Azeri disciples are receiving higher education at renowned universities of the world. Upon return, this educated and skilled lot will add lot of value to the wholesomeness of Azerbaijani youth. To add credence to the capability, it is suggested to follow 5 x Es, which are equalize, equip, engage, exposure and empower.

Interviewed by Ulvi Ahmedli

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