Could Pakistan-Azerbaijan relations hit a new high this year?

Pakistan and Azerbaijan both have ambitious regional integration visions


Azerbaijani journalist Rafiga Mammadzadeh interviewed Pakistani ambassador to Azerbaijan Mr. Bilal Hayee in an exclusive interview with Axar, a popular Azerbaijani media outlet. The transcript from the hour-long interview can be read in full here, and it’s important to do so if one has the time. In the meantime, what follows is a summary of the key highlights, after which an analysis will be undertaken examining the prospects for further expanding bilateral relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan. It’ll be argued that the high hopes that both countries have are very realistic and will likely be delivered upon in the coming future.

Mr. Hayee began the interview by emphasising the fact that Pakistan and Azerbaijan have “a relationship that has a long history based on mutuality of respect and mutuality of trust”, one which is “also bound by a common faith, a common desire to progress and develop as strong, independent, and peace-loving nations.” He noted that “Pakistan was among the first countries which recognised Azerbaijan as an independent state” and “also played an instrumental role in the adoption of various UN resolutions at the Security Council which created a legal framework for Azerbaijan’s stance on the issue of Nagorno Karabakh.”

Pakistan’s top representative in Azerbaijan praised his host country’s people for passionately flying his nation’s flag out of gratitude for Islamabad’s unwavering support for Baku during the latter’s recent Patriotic War. He expressed hope that more Pakistanis will begin flying Azerbaijani flags in the future too after their people come closer together following more interactions between the two. Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey “aim to strengthen and deepen cooperation” between the three countries in all spheres, but Mr. Hayee reassured the international community that “this cooperation is not intended against other countries”.

Looking forward, the Pakistani ambassador envisions his country and Azerbaijan cooperating more closely on the Covid-19 vaccine, at the United Nations on issues of shared interest including support of the people of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (he also thanked Azerbaijan for its “bold and consistent support” in this respect), and in the educational, energy, business, and tourism spheres. About the latter two, Mr. Hayee spoke highly about the impact that forthcoming direct flights between Islamabad and Baku will have on improving both of them, as well as people-to-people ties more broadly.

Analysing his optimistic expectations, it can be said that everything that the ambassador wishes for is realistic and will likely be delivered upon soon. The political will is present at all levels of each country’s bureaucracy and among their people to strengthen the fraternal bond between Pakistan and Azerbaijan. Islamabad’s solid support for Baku over Nagorno-Karabakh and Baku’s reciprocal support for Islamabad over Occupied Jammu and Kashmir speaks to the deep level of trust and goodwill which characterises their relations. It also shows the rest of the world just how highly both countries hold international law.

Another significant point to mention is that Pakistan and Azerbaijan both have ambitious regional integration visions. Although Pakistan hasn’t formally announced it, Islamabad aspires to expand CPEC along the northern, western, and southern directions via the CPEC+ paradigm for turning the South Asian country into the global pivot state, the concepts of which I explained in the two preceding hyperlinked analyses. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, formally announced its intention late last year to create a regional integration platform between itself and its five neighbours, which I elaborated upon in an analysis for Axar here.

Earlier this week, I also published a separate piece there about how the trilateral meeting between the Pakistani, Azerbaijani, and Turkish foreign ministers in Islamabad on Wednesday could see all sides discussing the pairing of Pakistan’s unofficial W-CPEC+ vision with Azerbaijan’s regional integration platform. “Azerbaijan’s Belt & Road Initiative Dreams Could Come True” if that happens, like I wrote earlier, hence why this should become the main goal that the Pakistani-Azerbaijan Strategic Partnership strives towards. Considering all that Mr. Hayee hopes to accomplish in the coming future, the basis for fulfilling these plans will soon be established.

Andrew Korybko

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