Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan resolve to reactivate ECO
* Pakistan to provide Kyrgyzstan with access to its seaports
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and two bilateral agreements to strengthen ties and pledged to reactivate the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO).
The agreements were signed after a meeting between Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev.
“We have committed to make ECO as effective as possible,” the Kyrgyz president told journalists after the meeting at Prime Minister’s House. “We want to reactivate the ECO and make it more vibrant by creating linkages between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. We have identified areas of cooperation including electricity and development of roads,” said Aziz.
Under the MoU, the foreign ministries of both countries will cooperate on various regional and international matters.
An agreement was signed to avoid double taxation and the prevention of income tax evasion. The other agreement related to cooperation in customs matters.
The prime minister said both sides agreed to reactivate the ECO because the regional pact would increase trade and investment.
The ECO was established in 1985, by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the promotion of economic, technical and cultural cooperation. In 1992, the ECO admitted seven new members including Kyrgyzstan.
Aziz said a joint ministerial commission of the two countries would meet in the next few weeks to discuss in detail various matters relating to trade and commerce.
He said the two countries had deep historic ties, which were developing through continuous people to people contact. He said the historical Silk Route would again play a key role in providing Kyrgyzstan access to Pakistani seaports.
The meeting decided that Pakistan would look at the possibility of importing electricity from Kyrgyzstan. It was also decided that Pakistan would assist the landlocked country develop a link to the Karakoram Highway in order to access Pakistani seaports.
To a question, Aziz said the lack of transport routes was a big hurdle in the way of better trade relations between the two countries. He hoped a road link would be established by next year. He said Pakistan would relax its visa regime for Kyrgyz businessmen.
Akaev said his government would also relax its visa regime for Pakistani businessmen and students. He proposed visa-free entry to Pakistani diplomats and officials.
Asked how Kyrgyzstan could help ensure peace in Afghanistan, essential for economic relations between Pakistan and Central Asian states, he said his country had cooperated with the international community in the fight against terrorism. He also appreciated Pakistan’s commitment to eliminating terrorism.
Akaev said after the 9/11 attacks in America, his country had demanded the creation of an international anti-terror coalition. An international airbase in Kyrgyzstan played a crucial role in the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, he asserted. The president said his country had provided relief and humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and had provided shelter to thousands of Afghan refugees.
APP adds: Speaking at a business forum, Akaev urged businessmen from both countries to held increase trade between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. He appreciated the efforts of the Kyrgzstan-Pakistan government commission for trade and economic cooperation as the most important component of two-way interaction.
He said his country was looking to change the structure of its imports from Pakistan from products of light industry to machinery and high-tech products required to equip and develop industries in Kyrgyzstan, particularly light industry.
“Direct investment and new technologies could enable this industry to be the most competitive in the markets of the Central Asian states,” he said. He said direct investment from Pakistan during the last five years totalled only $610,400 or 0.1 percent of gross foreign investment. “If you consider the dynamic development of the Pakistan economy, friendly relations and relative geographic closeness, the figures are incomparable with the actual potential,”