Pakistan has yet again conveyed its absolute willingness to Tajikistan for early conclusion of a trilateral transit trade agreement which would help exchange of goods with the landlocked country via Afghanistan, a senior official said earlier yesterday.
The talks on the agreement were suspended in April this year after Afghanistan’s assertion to include India.
Pakistan’s stance was conveyed on Friday in a Pakistani and Tajik business community gathering co-chaired by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan and Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Aslov.
The official, who was privy to the meeting, told Dawn that Pakistan has also offered to support the case of Tajikistan for joining a quadrilateral transit trade agreement including Pakistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. “We will support the inclusion of Tajikistan in the treaty,” Dastagir said.
Pakistan and Tajikistan have more than once showed their readiness to sign the trilateral agreement as soon as possible.
The official said the negotiations were on advanced stage and two meetings had been held in Islamabad and Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. But a non-negotiable condition put forward by Afghanistan to include India in the agreement is apparently proving to be a deal-breaker.
“There has been an impasse as Pakistan is not willing to include India until political relations between the two countries normalise,” the official elaborated. The mode of the treaty is ready for finalisation, he added.
India is garnering Afghanistan’s support to become part of the treaty to cut its way through Pakistan’s Wagah border to Afghanistan and Central Asian states.
Tajikistan is increasingly becoming a popular business destination for Pakistani entrepreneurs as they have invested more than $14 million there since 2007. Around 40 Pakistani companies are registered in Tajikistan, contributing with their expertise in some niche sectors.
While Tajikistan produces cotton fibre of finest quality, it lacks the technical sophistication to convert that into high-end fashion products for Western markets. Pakistani textile companies can help bridge that gap.
Mr Dastagir and Mr Aslov vowed to initiate joint business programmes to harness each other’s investment potential.
Tajikistan is reforming its laws to provide adequate safeguards to foreign investments and remove administrative barriers, the Tajik foreign minister said.
Mr Aslov made a pitch to Pakistani investors saying Tajikistan is rich in natural resources and around 40 kinds of metals can be extracted. This provides a golden opportunity to establish a metal industry in Tajikistan, he said.
His country also has four free trade zones that provide several types of tax holidays for investors, he added.
He also invited Tajik investors to work alongside Pakistani and Chinese investors to reap benefits of the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which he said has the potential to become the backbone of trade and commerce in the region.