THE capital of Pakistan has now become a hub of regional connectivity in which numerous high level political consultations and strategic dialogues are being carried out. Drastic change in global power politics with the change of gear/guard in the USA and subsequent regional realignment has significant short, medium and long term socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic implications and spillover repercussions. In this context, three brotherly countries, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey have held 2nd Trilateral Strategic Meeting (TSM) in Islamabad. The 2nd TSM of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan highlighted their significant contributions towards promotion of regional peace, stability and development. It resolved to further strengthen trilateral relations in terms of trade & commerce, education, culture, conflict resolution, greater productivity and energy cooperation for shared prosperity and security in the broader region. The three countries also signed ‘Islamabad Declaration’.
Islamabad Declaration vividly reflected their strong resolve for regional peace, energy cooperation/connectivity, free trade agreements (FTAs), foreign direct investment (FDIs), financial integration (banking cooperation), money laundering, crimes against cultural and historical heritage and cybercrimes, transportation facilitation (aviation & railways) and greater participation of private sector for trilateral development in diverse sectors of economy. It further highlighted their strong political commitments towards resolving emerging regional as well as international issues pertaining to security, human survival, climate change, human trafficking and drugs as well as achieving goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It elaborated that co-existence and cultural diversity should be promoted instead of hatred, bigotry and prejudice against Muslim communities living in the world. They agreed to chalk out joint strategies to counter escalating trends of Islamophobia. It extended its support to struggling communities and people living in Kashmir and Northern Turkish Cyprus.
It outlined innumerable challenges and emerging threats confronting their countries including onslaught of global franchised acts of terrorism, cyber-crimes, 5th generation hybrid warfare, targeted disinformation campaigns and escalating trends of Islamophobia affecting the peaceful co-existence of Muslim communities in many countries around the world. The Islamabad Declaration stressed the need to enhance joint efforts on combating Islamophobia, discrimination and persecution of Muslim minorities, in particular at the regional and international forums. It also expressed serious concern on the grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed against the Muslims in parts of the world.
It reaffirmed the most recent OIC resolution 10/47-Pol on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute adopted in Niamey in November 2020 and Communiqués of OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir and expressed deep concern over the unilateral actions of 5 August 2019, continuing grave human rights violations in and efforts to change the demographic structure of Jammu and Kashmir, and reiterated their principled position for a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. It expressed solidarity with the government and the people of Azerbaijan in their efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate liberated territories, besides reaffirming commitment towards developing regional consensus for peace and development.
It also acknowledged the contribution of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in peace, stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan and in the region and appreciated the efforts of the Government of Pakistan in facilitating a political solution to the issues in the region and expressed the support to the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process. The three brotherly countries also resolved to support a just, sustainable and realistic and mutually accepted settlement of the Cyprus issue, as well as the issues in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean on the basis of international law. They reaffirmed their support for putting an end to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and normalization of relations on the basis of sovereignty and territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It explored the chances of promoting further cooperation in defence and security fields, including through sharing best practices, capacity building, new and emerging technologies and regular exchange of visits.
Additionally, the three countries also discussed possible ways and means to cooperate to counter the COVID-19 pandemic along with a common strategy to minimize adverse impacts of climate change. They also agreed to further strengthen cooperation for enhancing trilateral trade & investment, and encouraged the relevant ministries of the three countries to develop a robust Action Plan with concrete recommendations regarding easing of duties, tariff and non-tariff barriers, transportation costs, better coordination among the banking sectors and protection of mutual investment, for consideration and approval by the leadership. The three countries also expressed determination to enhance cooperation on regional connectivity in transport, trade, energy, people-to-people contacts, education, social and cultural exchange, tourism and ICT, including through improving and strengthening air, rail and road links and regional connectivity initiatives at various regional forums. They also underlined the need to intensify cooperation for food and energy security, environment, sustainable development and climate change and called for greater international cooperation for timely response and achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Being a prominent regional expert of Azerbaijan & CIS, I purpose some valuable suggestions to further strengthen trilateral cooperation. Pakistan and Turkey should support Azerbaijan in its resettlement, reconstruction and infrastructural development plans in the most recently liberated territories. In this regard, formation of a Trilateral Construction Company (TCC) may be a feasible solution for these countries. Both countries should also extend their military cooperation to Azerbaijan in terms of production, training and joint ventures enabling it to defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity in case of any aggression. In this connection, formation of joint Defence Shield (DS) will be achieved through polling of resources, strong political will and human expertise. The recent visit of PAF Chief to Azerbaijan and Turkey is a good omen.
The establishment of a Trilateral Investment Bank (TIB) is the need of the hour for promoting productive channels and trade and commerce activities in three countries in the future. Formation of Joint Chamber of Commerce (JCC) will definitely increase trade & investment inflows in three countries. Formation of reciprocal Trade Houses will further enhance their exports. Joint Economic Free Zones would be a game changer to accelerate trilateral trade in the future. The establishment of joint aviation and railway trans-regional company will further enhance regional connectivity. Formation of an energy bank may also be a good idea for further strengthening of energy cooperation in oil & gas. In this regard, SOCAR, Azerbaijan has already started its cooperation with Pakistan. To conclude, Joint Media Company (JMC), TV channel and last but not the least Joint Think Tank may dismantle dissemination of propaganda against Muslims and diminish Islamophobia.
—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics Member Board of Experts, CGSS.