By Aymen Ijaz : –
The recent visit of President Lukashenko to Islamabad has provided impetus to Pakistan-Belarus bilateral relations. Glancing at historical relations, Pakistan was among first states to recognize Belarus after Soviet Union disintegration in 1991. Both countries share friendly and cordial diplomatic relations. Belarus opened its Embassy at Islamabad in 2014 and also has a Permanent Residential Mission in Karachi. Similarly, the Embassy of Pakistan has been set up at Minsk, Belarus. Both the governments have paid frequent visits to each other to strengthen their multifaceted bilateral relations. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko paid a two-day visit to Pakistan in May 2015 and again in October 2016, while the Prime Minster of Belarus also visited Pakistan in November 2015. From Pakistan’s side, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif conducted a two day state visit to Belarus in August, 2015.
For strengthening Pakistan-Belarus bilateral relations, several important measures were taken during visits of 2015. Both the countries signed a number of important agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in the fields of trade, industry, agriculture, investment, culture, defense, education and people-to-people contacts. These important agreements and MoUs provided structured framework for future collaboration and joint ventures in various areas. Both the countries focused to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism, extremism, narcotics, and human trafficking.
The two sides discussed regional and global issues and agreed to develop inter-regional relations to work for peace and economic development. On the economic side, in August 2015, Pakistan and Belarus initiated joint ventures (JVs) in the fields of textile, pharmaceutical and lighting solution industries. The First Pakistan-Belarus Business and Investment Forum was also established in Islamabad on May 25, 2015 along with Pakistan-Belarus Joint Economic Commission (JEC) and Joint Trade Committee (JTC) to enhance bilateral trade and to eliminate trade barriers between the two countries.
Moving ahead in 2016, both the countries continued their co-operation in the fields of trade, commerce, education and defense. The two sides focused on deepening trade, economic and inter-parliamentary linkages. At the sideline of the visit, many confidence building initiatives were also taken by the two sides such as in April 2016, a Belarusian delegation visited Pakistan to explore vistas for bilateral cooperation in the sectors of Defence Production, Science and Technology.
The delegation proposed formation of joint working group in the field of UAVs and selling of military trucks and optical devices to Pakistan. Similarly, a Belarusian business delegation had Business-to-Business (B2B) meetings with Pakistani counterparts of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) for sustainable business and trade collaborations in the early week of October, 2016. Pakistan and Belarus Centre on Science and Technological Co-operation has also been inaugurated by Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus before the arrival of Belarusian President to Pakistan. The two countries have also agreed to establish Urdu and Belarusian Chairs in their respective capitals.
However, during the current visit of President Lukashenko in October 2016, Pakistan and Belarus have again signed a number of important business agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) including banking, education, customs and aviation agreements. Pakistan offered Belarus for foreign investments in CPEC project and to utilize the benefits provided by the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). There was inauguration of the Fourth Pakistan-Belarus Business and Investment Forum. Joint ventures (JVs) and business-to-business (B2B) contacts in the areas of textiles, agricultural equipment and products, heavy machinery, pharmaceuticals, and
automotives were also stressed upon in the meetings. Both sides also agreed to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy and on devising a tripartite trade mechanism by involving a third country. An understanding on establishing direct air links in order to strengthen bilateral ties was also reached. An MoU was also signed between State Bank of Pakistan and National Bank of Belarus. Both sides reaffirmed to increase their trade volume to the set goal of $1 billion in 2020.
The recent visit of the Belarusian President would open new opportunities for Pakistan to explore new markets and to find new trade partner around the globe. The bilateral visit would strengthen the political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries. Pakistan and Belarus have greater scope of cooperation in the fields of defence industry. Both the states can enhance the level of cooperation through offering training courses at military institutions and by import of military equipment such as combat vehicles, tanks and armored personnel carriers etc. from Belarus while Pakistan can export small arms, infantry weapons, artillery ammunition etc. Pakistan can also benefit from Belarus military radio technology. In agriculture field, Pakistan can learn from Belarusian agro-policy. Pakistan can import Belarusian agricultural machinery, particularly tractors and their spare parts.
Pakistan can take advantage of custom union arrangement between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan where goods imported in one state can freely cross border between other members of the union. Belarus has provided assurance to Pakistan for its full support for Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Similarly, joint ventures in textiles and garments can be established between the two countries that can be exported to the EU countries on competitive rates. The exports of Belarus to Pakistan are confined to limited items including tractors, tyres, spare parts, chemical fibres, petro chemicals etc. but both have much potential to co-operate in areas of agriculture, energy, IT, steel, pharmaceuticals, textiles etc. Belarus can also assist Pakistan in boosting its automobile industry and assembly of buses, manufacturing of tractors and grain harvesters.
Therefore, it can be concluded that Pakistan and Belarus should continue to cement their bilateral relations which are in the mutual interests of both the countries. Pakistan and Belarus must work together for the realization of their common objectives that include regional connectivity, enhanced trade and flourishing social and cultural ties.