Opening Statement by Mr. Sartaj Aziz,Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security & Foreign Affairs/ Co-chair of Pakistan-Turkmenistan Joint Governmental Commission Islamabad, 7 August 2014
Excellency Mr. Rashid Meredov,
Deputy Chairman of Cabinet of Ministers (Vice-Premier) and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is a matter of honour and privilege for me to welcome His Excellency Mr. Rashid Meredov, Vice Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, to Pakistan. I also extend a warm welcome to members of his delegation for this 4th Session of the Pakistan-Turkmenistan Joint Governmental Commission (JGC). We hope your stay here is comfortable, and that you feel at home while in Pakistan.
Pakistan and Turkmenistan are two fraternal nations with a unique heritage of common faith, history and political affinity. We are proud that Pakistan was among the first countries to extend diplomatic recognition to Turkmenistan as an independent and sovereign state in 1991. We have watched with admiration the steady progress and prosperity that the brotherly people of Turkmenistan have achieved since independence.
We also appreciate the positive contribution being made by Turkmenistan to regional peace, stability and economic development. We believe this achievement owes substantially to the wisdom and foresight of the Turkmen leadership, and to the hard work and enterprise of the people of Turkmenistan.
The 3rd meeting of the Joint Governmental Commission took place in Ashgabat in April 2012. Since then, there has been a successful democratic transition in Pakistan. The new government under Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is pursuing a foreign policy, with “Peace for Development” as its defining principle. The Prime Minister’s vision places a central emphasis on building a “peaceful neighborhood” so that the core objective of Pakistan’s economic development could be robustly advanced.
The new government is also committed to comprehensively deepen Pakistan’s engagement with Central Asia, which forms a vital part of our extended neighborhood. This policy aims at forging comprehensive, multifaceted relationships with Central Asian states -- both on the bilateral and regional planes. Our endeavour is to focus on areas that promote peace and stability, contribute to our respective plans for national economic development, and foster greater regional cooperation for enhanced connectivity and shared prosperity.
It is extremely gratifying that the close, cordial ties between Pakistan and Turkmenistan continue to evolve into a strong partnership since 1991. Our bilateral relations have always been marked by mutual trust and understanding, and a desire to continuously expand the horizons of mutually-beneficial cooperation. Our two countries hold similar perspectives on major regional and international issues and work closely to promote common interests at various regional and multilateral fora.
It is equally gratifying that regular high-level visits from both sides have helped lay a solid foundation for the steady growth of our bilateral relationship. In the past two decades, the two countries have concluded around 25 agreements and MoUs in diverse fields -- including trade, energy, agriculture and livestock, science & technology, education, health, sports and tourism. These instruments provide the requisite legal framework and put in place the necessary institutional mechanisms to enhance mutual collaboration in key areas of common interest.
The Pakistan-Turkmenistan Joint Governmental Commission represents the most important platform to shape the nature and direction of our bilateral cooperation. Over the years, the JGC has helped facilitate fruitful exchanges in the political, trade, economic, scientific and technical, and human resource development fields. We have no doubt that this process would be significantly advanced by the 4th Session, commencing today.
As we delve deeper into our agenda for this Session, I would like to underline that a vast potential exists in the areas of trade, energy, and economic cooperation, which can and must be harnessed through our joint resolve and concerted efforts. Of primary importance in this regard are: optimal implementation of existing agreements and MoUs; establishment of a permanent platform for our private sectors to engage in sustained B2B interface; governmental facilitation of business travel and exchanges for trade and investment promotion; and measures to reinforce air and land connectivity.
It is important that we focus on our respective comparative advantages and decide on concrete initiatives to intensify bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, industry, communications, IT, and energy.
Pakistan is currently engaged in wide-ranging efforts to address severe energy shortages. In this regard, we are cognizant of Turkmenistan’s potential as a reliable partner to help strengthen our energy security. The two countries have embarked upon a project for the export of 1000 MW of Turkmen electricity to Pakistan, through Afghanistan. We look forward to swift completion of this important undertaking.
Most importantly, we must continue to proactively pursue efforts for the early realization of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline project. This would not only yield rich dividends to the countries involved, but also advance the cause of regional cooperation for development.
Pakistan lies at the crossroads of South, Central and West Asia. Besides being a big market of more than 184 million people, Pakistan is a neighbor to big emerging economies, especially China with which we have launched a landmark “Economic Corridor” Project. Pakistan’s geographical location, and our investment friendly policies, offer vast opportunities. I am hopeful that the investors from Turkmenistan would take full advantage of these possibilities. Our government would extend maximum possible facilitation for this purpose.
I would also like to briefly highlight Pakistan’s recent economic performance and future prospects. Despite internal and external challenges -- including global financial crisis, natural disasters, fight against terrorism, and energy crisis -- Pakistan has been able to maintain a reasonable growth trajectory. Since 2008-09, the economy grew, on average, at around 3% annually. Despite all odds, the GDP growth rate during the first financial year of the present government was 4.14%. We will endeavor to increase the GDP growth by a further 1% per year, aiming to take it to 7% by 2017.
Our consistent efforts for economic revival are yielding impressive results, as illustrated by macro-economic stability, increase in foreign exchange reserves, robust performance of the stock market, growth in domestic revenue generation, reform of the public sector enterprises, and strengthening of social safety nets. Cumulatively, this improving economic outlook opens up further opportunities for profitable collaboration with international partners.
I should also note that our Session is taking place at a time when the region is going through a significant transformation. The success of many of our bilateral and regional initiatives depends on continued peace and stability, particularly in Afghanistan. We look forward to exchanging views on these important developments and reaffirming our common resolve to work together on the basis of our convergent interests and shared goals.
In conclusion, I once again warmly welcome you, Excellency, and the accompanying delegation, to Pakistan. I wish you a pleasant stay and a productive outcome of this Session.