Azernews. – 2017. – May 31.- ¹. 40.- p. 3.
Silver Jubilee of Pakistan-Azerbaijan relations
By Muhammad Asif Noor
While glancing over the relationships between the two countries, there are a number of political, diplomatic, strategic understandings which form the solid foundation of shared beliefs, values, and sentiments towards each other while economic parameters help to test the level of closeness and congeniality. Obviously, every state in the international system pursues its national interest to build the levels of partnerships. This level of interest is defined through the vision and approach of the foreign policy elements that has been set up by the state apparatuses in having a certain posture and dimension in the global arena. Pakistan and Azerbaijan are among the most important players of their geographical regions. Need not to say about the weight of Pakistan in South Asia as a leading lynchpin of the regional peace posture and Azerbaijan as “Tiger of Caucuses” under the new, energetic and visionary leadership in its region with bright dimension and outlook towards the future.
Pakistan being the first country after Turkey to have recognized independence of Azerbaijan in 1992 and it’s the diplomatic edge too that Pakistan is among few of the countries of the world, till writing of these lines, has not yet recognized the aggressor Armenia as a sovereign state. Reason being the state’s unjust hostility and human rights violations in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and Pakistan supported Azerbaijan’s principled stand over the issue at all international and regional debates to the best possible diplomatic manner. Last year, Pakistan was at the forefront in supporting of the establishment of the contact groups connected to the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the important international organizations which includes first and foremost at the Organizations of Islamic Cooperation and second is the Non Aligned Movement hence proved the strength of the support and glorious efforts of both states to stand by each other on such important issues. While on the other hand, Azerbaijan supported Pakistan on the international and regional forums on the issue of Kashmir. This presence of each other’s support on such matters had made both states closer to each other since the beginning of the relations 25 years ago.
Both Pakistan and Azerbaijan are facing similar kind of long standing territorial disputes with their neighboring countries. Pakistan is confronting more than six decades old conflict with India over Kashmir- the heaven on earth while Azerbaijan over the beautiful Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Hence the commonality of sufferings and pains of humanity in the regions has connected both states into somewhat bond of togetherness to oppose the resilience, fear and injustice. Both states stood by each other on the issues and faced the test of the times together. For Pakistan, Azerbaijan stand out amongst the committee of nations as a country sharing not only religious belief system but also the stand point towards the promotion of justice, fairness and integrity of values that provides each human being the value to grow, develop and have fair access to the basic necessities of life.
The energy rich Azerbaijan has redefined itself over the past two and half decades as leading economy of the Caucasus region with positive and transformative outlook towards regional and international energy politics and has an important place in Pakistan’s foreign and strategic policy outlook. Pakistan and Azerbaijan over the decades have made substantial headways in terms of developing new avenues of cooperation in the economic, political, energy and strategic field. Bilateral trade is standing at around the startling 7.3 USD million which is significantly not reflecting the will of both sides as there is an urge at the high level to improve this figure to 500 million USD. Joint cooperation at the level of Chamber of Commerce is on the rise including regular contacts of trade and economic commissions. Cooperation at the military has also been enhanced quite recently with presence of the Azerbaijani companies in the IDEAS military exhibition in Karachi. Both sides are working on to develop mechanisms for improving ties in the energy field also. Although there is recent focus on the arms trade and energy sector but the diversification of cooperation in different sectors has also been explored including trade, education, people to people contacts.
It is heartening to note here that Baku State University, one of the largest University of Azerbaijan, has established the Urdu Department. President Mamnon Hussain during his visit in 2015 visited the University and hailed the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan for making this important department. Prime Minister was also conferred with the honorary doctorate degree during his visit. First ever Urdu-Azeri phrase book has also been published by the bright faculty members of the Urdu department of Baku State University. Other related publications highlighting the connections between the two languages are in process. Pakistan’s Foreign Services Academy and National Defence University receive several young diplomats and cadets of several cadres of armed forces of Azerbaijan on regular basis, as well as on the basis of exchange. Both states are encouraging investments so that both states can take benefit of the potentials of each other. Pakistan is looking towards Caucasus especially southwards with the vision to import various energy collaborative projects to end the dearth for the economy that the state is facing today. Azerbaijan being “Tiger of Caucasus” in terms of economic and political development pose as an opportunity for Pakistan to get involved in mutually beneficial cooperative engagements.
Azerbaijan touched people of Pakistan’s hearts as a result of their phenomenal support during the earthquake in 2005 and later on with continuous philanthropic work across the length and breadth of Pakistan at various levels, schools and medical assistance in any emerging calamity. Since 2012, the First Lady of Azerbaijan H.E. Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, the Vice President and First Lady of Azerbaijan, the head of Heydar Aliyev Foundation took several important philanthropic initiatives in support to the series of projects related to healthcare, education, cultural, sports, scientific-technological, environmental and social fields that have been implemented in all provinces of Pakistan in collaboration with different similar local organizations. On the special festive occasions like Ramzan, Eid ul Adha, iftar dinners and related supporting events are organized on regular basis to support the deserving people of Pakistan.
The Heydar Aliyev Foundation also constructed a high school for 500 pupils in Muzaffarabad after the devastating earthquake in 2005 and continues supporting the school since then. The school has been recently renamed in the honor of Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva. The school is a symbol of love, care and special affection of People of Azerbaijan for the people of Pakistan. As a result and in recognition of the great philanthropic work by the “lady with heart of gold” in Pakistan during the visit of President Mamnoon Hussain, the first lady was presented with the highest honor of “Hilal-i-Pakistan” has been conferred.
In case of cultural exchanges and promotion of values of great poet “Nizami Ghanjavi”, a corner was recently established in the premises of the National Book Foundation while Azerbaijan corner was dedicated at the premises of National Library of Pakistan. These are the monuments of the togetherness which will be harnessed over the course of the coming years between both the nations.
Azerbaijan is a beautiful mix of east and west and reflection of unity in diversity where several religions and cultures are coexisting in harmonious relations with each other. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation reconstructed several mosques and churches. A project of the foundation “Azerbaijan-Home to Tolerance” reflects the priority the country is posing towards building tolerance and peace not only at domestic level but also at regional and international level as well. Both Azerbaijan and Pakistan can learn and share from their experience be that of living with equality and harmony, fighting with the challenges that of terrorism or aspiring to improve the standards of the living of humanity in each other’s states.
At the eve of celebrating silver jubilee between Pakistan and Azerbaijan, both states hope to rise in togetherness for betterment of the people, promoting peace, prosperity at the regional level and endorsing justice at the international level.
The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and President, Azerbaijan-Pakistan Friendship Forum