ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will leave for Dushanbe city of Tajikistan on Thursday (tomorrow) to lead Pakistan’s delegation at the 20th edition of the Council of Heads of State Summit — a flagship event of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
The two-day visit is taking take place at the invitation of host President Emomali Rahmon and will end on September 17 (Friday), the Prime Minister’s Office said. A high-level ministerial delegation will also accompany the prime minister, it added.
The Eurasian security bloc will have its attention centred on the fallout from the U.S.-led international military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August and the Taliban’s return to power when it convenes in Dushanbe.
Beijing has established working ties with the Taliban, recognising its hold on power and agreeing to provide aid and vaccines to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the group has also offered goodwill to China with support for its Belt and Road Initiative and vowing that it won’t let the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement — which China views as an internal threat — operate on its soil.
In addition to China, Russia has also shown a willingness to engage with the Taliban, but several key differences among SCO members that share a border with Afghanistan will need to be reconciled.
How exactly officials from disparate member countries will reach a common consensus, however, is unknown, with several of them — like India — holding differing views on how to deal with a Taliban-governed Afghanistan.
This will be Imran’s third visit to a central Asian state, underlining Islamabad’s enhanced engagement with the region.
Previously, he has participated in similar conferences in Bishkek in 2019 and Moscow in 2020 via video link.
During his visit, the prime minister will also hold meetings with participating leaders on the sidelines of the summit.
Imran’s meeting with Rahmon will “cover the entire gamut of bilateral relations, especially enhancing trade, economic and investment ties with a particular focus on regional connectivity,” the Foreign Office said.
The two nations have also expressed a strong commitment to enter into a formal strategic partnership.
The prime minister will also inaugurate the first meeting of the Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum for which purpose, a group of businessmen is also accompanying him.
The forum will “catalyse growing trade and investment relations and promote business to business contacts between the trading communities of both sides,” the Foreign Office added.
A meeting of the body will also be held on the sidelines of the conference.
Pakistan and Tajikistan enjoy close brotherly relations underpinned by the bonds of common faith, history and culture. The two countries have shared perceptions and a common desire to promote economic development, peace, security and stability in the region.
The prime minister’s visit is part of Pakistan’s deepened engagement with the central Asian region through its Vision Central Asia policy, having revitalised focus in five key domains: Political ties, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence, and people-to-people contacts.