imageDUSHANBE: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Tuesday said that Pakistan had deep historical ties with the Central Asian region and wished to transform them into a strong economic partnership.

The Prime Minister expressed these views in a one-on-one meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rahman here at Qasr-e-Millat.

He said that his aim was to comprehensively enhance the engagement with the Central Asia.

“The main thrust of our engagement is on trade, investment, energy, connectivity, people-to-people contacts, tourism and culture," he added.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stressed upon the collective efforts needed to increase bilateral trade.

He said the cultural affinities and geographical proximity provided a strong foundation for the Pak-Tajik relations. “There should be regular exchanges of parliamentary friendship groups to take our friendship to grassroots level."

He also thanked Tajikistan for inviting 20 children and five faculty members of Army Public School, Peshawar, to enable them to recover from the psychological trauma after December 2014 attack.

Nawaz Sharif congratulated the Tajik President on successfully holding the International Conference on the Implementation of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life," 2005-15.

He also invited the Tajik President to visit Pakistan.

Welcoming the Prime Minister, Tajik President Emomali Rahman said that he was confident that his visit to Tajikistan would be very successful like his visits to Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

He said the relations between Tajikistan and Pakistan had a long history based on shared culture and a common religion.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also exclusive delegation level talks with the Tajik President.

Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan offered the shortest route from Tajikistan to the sea.

It was encouraging that the second round of consultations between Pakistan and Tajikistan took place in Islamabad in May 2015. Pakistan was very keen to see the early commencement of CASA-1000 project, he added.

The Tajik President said after independence of his country, a new chapter in the bilateral relations with Pakistan was opened as the latter was among the first countries to recognize and establish diplomatic ties with Tajikistan.

President Emomali Rahman further said that relations with Pakistan were one of the priorities of Tajik foreign policy.

“More than 40 bilateral agreements have been signed so far between our two countries since early 1990s. Last year's official visit of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had opened a new page in our bilateral cooperation," he added.

The President said, “We strongly believe that our bilateral cooperation would grow from strength to strength. Pakistan is one of the rapidly developing countries of the region. Through Pakistan, Tajikistan can open a window to the sea through Gwadar and Karachi ports. Tajikistan can play the role of gateway to Central Asia for Pakistan and Afghanistan."

He also expressed his gratitude to Pakistan for the support given to CASA 1000 project and expressed the desire for its early completion.

“We are also pleased that bilateral trade between the two counties have increased but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Conducting of a joint economic groups meeting later this year would be beneficial in this regard," he added.

The President also welcomed Pakistan's industrialists and agriculturists to hold exhibitions in Tajikistan. “We have not fully utilized the potential in agriculture sector so far, it will serve our mutual interest, if we have enhanced cooperation in this sector."

He said that Tajikistan fully supported Pakistan's joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member.

The Tajik President also accepted Prime Minister's invitation for visiting Pakistan.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2015