H.E. Dashgin Shikarov Ambassador of Azerbaijan
Raja Aamir Mahmood Bhatti
Pakistan and Azerbaijan have a long history of brotherly relations. In order to show solidarity Pakistan supports Baku on Nagorno-Karabakh issue and therefore still does not recognize Armenia as a state. Likewise, Azerbaijan supports Islamabad for Kashmir issue. The diplomatic relations between our countries are growing with a good pace. Keeping in mind, the active involvement of Azerbaijan in Pakistan, the “Diplomatic Star” has conducted interview of H.E. Dashgin Shikarov Ambassador of Azerbaijan to bring the goodwill of Azerbaijan in limelight.
Q: President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain recently has paid an official visit to Azerbaijan. Did the two Presidents signed any Declaration on strategic partnership and some agreements in other sectors?
A: The visit of President Mamnoon Hussain to Azerbaijan in March 2015 was definitely a milestone in our relations. The Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership as well as the Agreement on Exchange of Prisoners, Memorandum of Understanding between the ADA University of Azerbaijan and the Foregn Service Academy of Pakistan, MOU between the Medical University and the ZAB Medical University were signed during the visit. As well as the business forum with participation of leading business circles took place in Baku in the framework of the visit. No doubts this visit contributed substantially to the deepening of ties in political, economic and humanitarian spheres between our two countries.
Q: How would you estimate the future bilateral ties between Pakistan and Azerbaijan?
A: Pakistan was one of the first countries in the world to recognize our independence. The history of recognition of our independence is as unique as relations between us. Probably it was for the first time in the history when the appeal for the independence recognition was positively responded by the then Prime-Minister Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from the air. That very day was a starting point for both countries to build up relations in all the spheres of life.
Azerbaijan and Pakistan support each other’s position in international forum and share common views on almost all outstanding issues. During the two decades of diplomatic relations, there were exchange of high level bilateral visits including five presidential. We were also able to create a solid legislative base which plays significant role for further enhancement of ties in various sectors. The specificity of the relations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan is absence of so called “hidden rocks”. Relations between our countries are absolutely sincere and transparent and there is not a single issue where our interests clash.
Q: As Azerbaijan’s economy is growing rapidly; is there any investment opportunity for Pakistanis?
A: Azerbaijan has very transparent and liberal investment policy that creates favourable conditions for the foreign investments. It is therefore, almost all well-known multinational companies are present in Azerbaijan. The foreign legal and physical entities are allowed to register with 100% equity and there is no limit for foreign exchange transfers. I avail this opportunity to invite Pakistani business entities to Azerbaijan and invest in different fields of economy. There is one advantage with Pakistani investors- that is a special attitude, love and affection of Azerbaijanis to the people of Pakistan
Q: What is the present economic stand of Azerbaijan and what would be the future of economic ties between the two countries? Do you see any improvement in that sector in recent years?
A: For the last more than a decade the economy of Azerbaijan is growing and our country ultimately became one of the leading economic powers in the region. Besides developing of our oil and gas sector, we concentrated on the development of non-oil sector too. Having very attractive geopolitical location, Azerbaijan became main transport hub in the region. The launching of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway corridor and the new international seaport on the shore of the Caspian Sea will facilitate the transportation of goods from East to West and back and contribute to the development of Azerbaijan’s economy. The only obstacle on the way of progress is definitely the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. We hope that with help of international community we will be able to restore the justice and get the resolutions of UNSC implemented. This will have a tremendous impact on development of Azerbaijan and the whole region.
As far as the Pakistan economic ties with Azerbaijan are concerned, I foresee a very bright future. Although today the level of economic relations are absolutely not at par with political one. Nevertheless, we strongly believe that in the years to come they will be expanding. There are already some indications of increasing trade and growing interest from investors. As I already mentioned before, the visit of President Mamnoon Hussain to Azerbaijan and the business forum held on its side-lines boosted the economic relations between the two countries.
Q: What possibilities do exists to further the defence cooperation between our countries?
A: The defense cooperation is another very important sphere of cooperation and we believe that we have to emphasise on enhancing of this sphere as well. Huge potential exists between our countries and we hope the defence cooperation will strengthen further.
Q: As Turkish Airline has started direct flights from Islamabad to Baku, do you have any idea of flights’ schedule and other related details? Do you think that the political and trade relations between our countries would improve with this advancement?
A: The resumption of direct flights between Azerbaijan and Pakistan was another outcome of the visit of President of Pakistan. Recently the Turkish airlines started direct flights between our two capitals with frequency of two flights a week. This factor will definitely have a positive impact on bilateral trade and enhanced people-to-people contact.
Q: Heydar Aliyev Foundation is quite active in Pakistan in social welfare. I want to learn about few important things regarding Foundation; for instance, when it started working in Pakistan, its aims and objectives, in which sectors it is working and what are its future plans?
A: The Heydar Aliyev Foundation started its activities in Pakistan soon after the devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan in 2005. The foundation constructed a girls’ school accommodating 500 students in Muzaffarabad. Another phase of activity of the foundation in Pakistan falls on 2012 and continues till now. In the framework of this phase number of humanitarian and development projects where executed. These projects where implemented in different districts of the country including far-flanked areas like Dera-Ismail-Khan, Lakky-Marwat etc. And obviously, the conferment of First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva with Hilal-e-Pakistan order during the visit of President Mamnoon Hussain to Azerbaijan was acknowledgement of the activity of Azerbaijani First Lady in Pakistan.
Q: What strategy you are employing to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh issue? Pakistan supports Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh issue and Azerbaijan supports Pakistan on Kashmir issue. May we hope that this mutual support will continue till these problems come to an end?
A: As you are well aware the ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia was signed in 1994. Since that day the negotiations are going on with mediation of OSCE Minsk Group. Unfortunately we could not get any substantial results out of these talks so far. The leadership of our country have taken a humanistic stance and doing its utmost to resolve this issue by peaceful means.
Pakistan is one of those countries which did not recognize Armenia as a state due to the occupation of Azerbaijani lands. Official Islamabad unequivocally supports Azerbaijan on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and always vote in international arena in our favour. On February 1st, 2012 the Senate of Pakistan adopted a resolution in support of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and condemning Khojaly genocide. This resolution was followed by another resolution adopted in October 2013, where Pakistani Senate’s standing committee reaffirmed the territorial integrity and political serenity of Azerbaijan. By doing all these Islamic Republic of Pakistan once again proved its loyalty to the international norms and principles as well as demonstrated the solidarity with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan was always in favour to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of international norms and principles, UNSC resolutions. Recently, on the side-lines of UN General Assembly, Azerbaijan took part in the meeting of OIC Kashmir Contact Group. We hope that the international community should put its efforts together in order to get the issues of Nagorno-Karabakh, Kashmir, Palestine and others resolved on the basis of justice and international law.
Q: You have a vast experience of Pakistan as in recent years you have served in different capacities in the Mission. On which issues during your services in Pakistan you focused more in order to strengthen the ties between the two brotherly countries?
A: I believe that the relations between the brotherly countries should develop in all walks of life and dimensions. It is therefore during my diplomatic tenure in Pakistan, I did my utmost to focus on development of political, strategic, economic, cultural, humanitarian and other spheres.
Q: How we can improve the diplomatic relations through cultural diplomacy?
A: Nowadays, public diplomacy, people to people contacts matter a lot. They substantially contribute to the strengthening of the relations between the States and the Nations. And indeed they affect the diplomatic relations as well. Therefore, I believe, this instrument must be used much more pragmatically and effectively.