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Kyrgyzstan|opinion & analysis|March 27, 2024 / 03:23 PM
Number of Pakistani nationals in Kyrgyzstan estimated to be 14,000 - Ambassador Hasan Ali Zaigham (interview)

AKIPRESS.COM - Ambassador of Pakistan to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Ali Zaigham talked about bilateral relations, prospects of economic relations, Pakistani diaspora in Kyrgyzstan, military-technical cooperation in an interview with AKIpress news agency.

- How would you characterize Kyrgyz-Pakistani relations at the moment?

- Pakistan and Kyrgyz Republic enjoy close fraternal relations based common historical and cultural bonds. The relationship is multifaceted and steered by regular bilateral dialogue mechanisms such as the Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) and Bilateral Political Consultations. There have been a number of important Ministerial visits which have helped maintain a positive momentum in our interactions.

Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani visited Bishkek to attend the SCO Heads of Government Meeting on 25-27 October 2023. On the sidelines of the visit he held meetings with President Sadyr Japarov and Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubaev to review the whole range of our bilateral relations.

4th session of Pak-Kyrgyz Joint Ministerial Commission was held in Bishkek on 10 November 2023. The meeting has laid the foundation for more meaningful economic cooperation between our two countries.

Kyrgyz Health Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliev visited Pakistan in January 2024 to attend the Global Health Summit in Islamabad.

- What was the trade turnover between the countries in 2023?

- Bilateral trade volume was US dollars 11.05 million in FY 2022-2023. Pakistan’s exports are valued at US$ 10.99 million and imports US $0.069 million. During July-January 2023-2024 our exports to Kyrgyz Republic have been valued at US $5.97 million imports from Kyrgyz Republic amounting to US $ 0.23 million. Bilateral trade has been much below its potential due to logistical challenges and lack of secure banking channels. The actual trade volume is much higher due to under-invoicing, third country re-exports and use of informal channels for money transfer.

- What are the transport logistics of trade relations between countries?

- The two countries are using two transport corridors for bilateral trade i.e. through Afghanistan and through China. Pakistan’s two logistical companies are operating in Central Asia including the National Logistics Corporation and the TCS. Both Pakistan and Kyrgyz Republic are members of the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QATT). Pakistan has also proposed to Kyrgyz Republic a Transit Trade Agreement to further develop our transport and logistical links. Pakistan offers the shortest and the most economical route to the sea for Kyrgyz Republic for its international trade through our ports. We are working together with the Kyrgyz side to further strengthen these links.

- What work is being undertaken to develop a Quadrilateral agreement between Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, China and Pakistan?

- The Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement was signed in March 1995 between the Governments of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Pakistan. However, traffic under the agreement is nominal. The NLC has recently taken the initiative of road transportation of cargo between Pakistan and Kyrgyz Republic under the QATT. We hope that initiatives such as this would help achieve the QATT its real potential.

- Are there any plans to deepen military-technical cooperation?

- Both countries enjoy excellent defence cooperation characterized by high number of military and security level visits. Commander of Kyrgyz Airforce Col. Kylychbek Aidarliev visited Pakistan in Feb. 2022 and held useful discussions his Pakistani counterpart. Kyrgyz Deputy Defence Minister Major General Ibraev Omukeevich visited Pakistan in November 2022 to attend 11th International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS-2022). So far, more than 50 Kyrgyz Defence personnel have attended various courses in training institutions of Pakistan Armed Forces. We are committed to further enhancing the scope of our defence technical cooperation with Kyrgyzstan.

- Kyrgyzstan now has the largest Pakistani diaspora in Central Asia. What pros and cons do you see in this fact?

- The number of Pakistani nationals in Kyrgyzstan is estimated to be 14,000, mostly students studying in various Kyrgyz medical universities. The student fraternity is around 11,000 which is contributing approximately US$ 50 million to the Kyrgyz economy. Because of Pakistani students we have regular flights between our two countries that has helped enhance people to people interactions and tourism.

- Recently, there have been many reports in the media about Pakistani garment workers in Kyrgyzstan. Is the flow of Pakistani workers to Kyrgyzstan increasing?

- Kyrgyz textile and construction sectors are booming with a high demand for skilled overseas workers. Pakistani textile and construction workers have been recruited by the Kyrgyz firms and they are contributing to the development of Kyrgyz economy. At the moment we do not have the precise numbers to compare the growth of overseas workers in the country therefore it would not be possible to make a conclusive answer to the question.

- What common geopolitical interests of the two countries can you note?

- Both Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan are committed to rule based global order governed by the UN Charter and settlement of disputes though peaceful means. As members of WTO, we strongly believe in principles of free trade and open markets. We enjoy unanimity of views on many regional and international issues. There is a mechanism of Bilateral Political Consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs. We regularly support each other in the various forums of the United Nations.

- Will there be any high-level visits this year?

- The new government has just assumed office in Islamabad. We hope that there would be a number of bilateral interactions this year which would be announced in due course.

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