Azerbaijan and Pakistan

An Interview with H.E. Mr. Abdul Hamid
Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Republic of Azerbaijan

February 12, 2010
Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan and the World: What do you see as the most significant characteristic of the relationship between Pakistan and Azerbaijan?

Ambassador Hamid: The core of relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan is the existence of the highest level of political and diplomatic relations between the two countries.  In both countries, there exists a tremendous goodwill for each other and both have supported each other in times of trial and tribulation.  This goodwill is not only at the level of their leadership and government, but also among their population at large.  Our countries have a lot of similarities and have gone through almost similar crises in their post-independence periods. 

AIW: How have Azerbaijan-Pakistan relations evolved in the post-Soviet era and how would you describe their current status?  

Amb. Hamid: Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize independence of Azerbaijan on the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.  It was a time when Azerbaijan was facing its worst crisis and was fighting for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Pakistan’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s independence was prompt and timely.  Similarly, Pakistan played a pivotal role in 1993 in adopting UN Security Council Resolutions in support of Azerbaijan and its territorial integrity.  Interestingly, Pakistan was a Non-Permanent member of the UN Security Council at the time and used its influence to support Azerbaijan.  Similarly, Pakistan played an important role in the adoption of UN General Assembly Resolution 10693 supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, one which was passed in March 2008. 

Pakistan has trained a number of both civil and military personnel in a number of areas like military training, training of diplomats in its foreign service academy, revenue collection, banking, rail transport, postal, life insurance and range of other services.  

Our countries enjoy excellent relations, and yet, there is potential to further improve upon in certain areas like trade and economics.

AIW: What is the state of energy cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan?  

Amb. Hamid: Pakistan’s economy had been growing rapidly, although its growth slowed down over the past few couple of years.  In the coming years, the economy is expected to accelerate again and create more demand for energy supply.  At present, no significant cooperation exists in the energy sector between Pakistan and Azerbaijan.  One of the reasons for this could of course be the distance between the two countries.  

AIW: What are the main components of trade and areas of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan? 

Amb. Hamid: Although we enjoy very close friendly relations at diplomatic level, these close ties have not been translated into significant commercial gains.  Currently, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Pakistan stands at about six million US dollars.  We are mostly exporting rice, industrial lubricants, medicines, polyethylene products, textiles and garments.  However, we feel there is a lot of untapped potential for promotion of bilateral trade.  One way of enhancing the interaction between the business communities of our two countries could be through more frequent trade delegations and assisting businesspersons with issues like visa and targeted market research. 

AIW: What is the state of bilateral cooperation in the military field?

Amb. Hamid: Defence Cooperation between Pakistan and Azerbaijan is governed by a bilateral agreement which provides for cooperation in almost every field, including training and defence production.  Furthermore, both countries sign a defence cooperation plan every year covering activities and events scheduled for the following year.  There is a regular exchange of high level (military) visits to both countries.  So far, Pakistan has trained 75 Azerbaijani defence officials gratis, while 19 are currently undergoing training in different military institutions in Pakistan.  Similarly, we have a robust cooperation in the defence industries.
AIW: What is the state of bilateral cultural and social cooperation?
Amb. Hamid: Pakistan and Azerbaijan are bound by historical ties of a common religion and various cultural affinities.  However, during the Soviet era, these links were temporarily severed.  The post-Soviet period has seen revival of these cultural links and efforts are underway to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of culture.  Both countries acknowledge the fact that people-to-people interaction plays an important role in bringing the nations together.  

AIW: Do you see any hurdles that Pakistan and Azerbaijan will have to overcome in order to improve their relationship?  What are the plans for the future?

Amb. Hamid: Pakistan and Azerbaijan have excellent bilateral cooperation in different fields except in the field of trade and economics.  We feel that relations in trade and economics are not commensurate with the potential and the level of relations between the two countries in other fields.  The current international relations are shaped by bilateral trade volume and economic cooperation.  Pakistan feels that both our countries will have to do a lot in this regard.  So we can say, that not having addressed relations in the field of trade and economics up to their potential may be regarded as hurdle to further improve relations between the two countries. 

AIW: Some analysts have suggested that 2009 was dominated by an effort of all countries in the region to adjust to the new conditions created by the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.  How well do you think Baku has done in this regard?

Amb. Hamid: Yes, of course, the war between Russia and Georgia and subsequent events, have led the countries in the region to adjust to the new realities.  In my opinion, the policy pursued by Azerbaijan is pragmatic and in line with the realities in the region, as no country in the Caucasian region can ignore the neighbouring countries and their regional politics.  Azerbaijan has successfully and skilfully maintained the balance.  

AIW: Given your own experience, what advice would you give to young Azerbaijanis beginning their careers in diplomacy?

Amb. Hamid: The diplomatic career is the world’s best profession.  A diplomat always gets opportunities to rub shoulders with the elite of the world, and indeed diplomacy is the first line of defence for any country.  For wars don’t result in the solution of different issues faced by the world and, ultimately, countries have to seek negotiated solutions through diplomacy.  I would like to advise young entrants to broaden their horizon and to get to know world history and politics by finding and keeping abreast of relevant literature.  As this career provides the opportunity to move around in the world on different postings and assignments, the knowledge of various languages would always be an added value for interaction.  Thus, they should concentrate to have a working knowledge of at least two major languages.  I would like young people to feel encouraged to join this elite profession.  The diplomatic profession is to be full of challenges, opportunities and privileges throughout their career.