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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will embark on a two-day official visit to Tajikistan today (Thursday) to participate in the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) Summit in Dushanbe, which is expected to be dominated by discussions on the new development in Afghanistan and its implications for the member states.

The annual summit will bring together heads of state from the member countries including Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan, besides Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the summit virtually, while Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar will travel to Dushanbe.

Besides other issues of common interests, the leadership of the member states are expected to hold deliberation upon the evolving situations in Afghanistan, as sources said that Prime Minister Khan would present Pakistan’s perspective of the situation and the way out to deal with the common challenges collectively.

Prime Minister Khan, according to Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, will be paying the visit from September 16-17 along with a high-level delegation on the invitation of President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan.

This will be the third visit of the prime minister to Central Asia, underlining Pakistan’s enhanced engagement with the region.

He said the prime minister would participate in the 20th SCO-CHS Summit in Dushanbe.

He has earlier participated in the SCO-CHS held in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic on 13-14 June 2019, and the SCO-CHS hosted by Russia on 10 November 2020 through video-conference.

The spokesperson said the prime minister would have bilateral meetings with other participating leaders on the sidelines.

After attending the SCO-CHS, he added the prime minister would have the bilateral segment of the visit.

“His talks with Tajik president will cover the entire gamut of bilateral relations, especially enhancing trade, economic and investment ties with a particular focus on regional connectivity,” the spokesperson said, adding the two countries had earlier expressed strong commitment to enter into a formal strategic partnership.

He further stated that the prime minister will also inaugurate the first meeting of Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum for which a group of Pakistani businessmen will also visit Dushanbe.

The Joint Business Forum will catalyse growing trade and investment relations and promote business-to-business contacts between the trading communities of both sides, he said, adding that a meeting of Pakistan-Tajikistan Joint Business Council will also be held on the sidelines.

“Pakistan and Tajikistan enjoy close brotherly relations underpinned by the bonds of common faith, history and culture,” he said, adding the two countries had shared perceptions and a common desire to promote economic development, peace, security and stability in the region.

He said the prime minister’s visit was part of Pakistan’s deepened engagement with Central Asia through “Vision Central Asia” policy, having revitalised focus in five key areas of political ties, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence, and people-to-people contacts.

The SCO is an eight-member permanent inter-governmental trans-regional organisation. It was established in Shanghai on 15 June 2001.

Pakistan became an SCO observer in 2005 and a full member in June 2017 during Astana SCO-CHS Summit.

Russia, China, India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan are other SCO members.

The SCO also has four observer states – Iran, Mongolia, Belarus, and Afghanistan – and six Dialogue Partners, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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