Muhammad Asif Noor: "Tiger of Caucasus” pose as an opportunity for Pakistan to get involved in mutually beneficial cooperative engagements"
Fuad Safarov, exclusevily to VK.
Pakistan and Azerbaijan has no common borders but still in the last 20 years they maintain cordial relations characterized by common views on major global and regional issues. The Founder and Director of the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy (IPD) Muhammad Asif Noor told VK what caused that two nations come together.
How do you evaluate the Pakistani-Azerbaijani relations and the policy of Pakistan on South Caucasus?
Azerbaijan and Pakistan are two brotherly Muslim countries with unique commonalities of historical, religious and political nature. The relation goes back to the time when both nations were part of Persian Empire. Pakistan recognized independence of Azerbaijan in 1991 (the second country after Turkey) and the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. Pakistan was one of the first countries to open its embassy in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. After the establishment of the formal diplomatic relations, there was no look back and the ties grew on steady pace. Both countries built deeper and closer brotherly bond which is strengthening and growing ever since till this time. Leadership and people of both countries feel closer to each other. Ever since the first visit of the then Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1995 and a reciprocal visit of Azerbaijan’s late President Heydar Aliyev in April 1996 to Pakistan, both countries have covered lots of ground in political and economic spheres.
Both countries have supported each other in every international forum. Pakistan and the people of Pakistan can well understand and feel the pain of Azerbaijani people and sufferings of people of Nagorno-Karabakh because we are facing the bloodshed in Kashmir since the time of our inception in 1947. Azerbaijan supports Pakistan’s position on Kashmir issue and Pakistan supports Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Pakistan is the only country in the world that has not yet recognized Armenia because of its aggression to the Azerbaijani people. This has also resulted in the successful development of relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan. They have been established on the ground of friendly and fraternal principles.
Pakistan and Azerbaijan are supporting each other on various issues of bilateral and multi lateral level. Both states are encouraging investments so that both states can took advantage of the potentials of each other. Pakistan is looking towards Caucasus especially southwards with the vision to import various energy collaborative projects to end the dearth for the economy that the state is facing today. Azerbaijan being “ Tiger of Caucasus” in terms of economic and political development pose as an opportunity for Pakistan to get involved in mutually beneficial cooperative engagements.
How can you comment on political and economical growth of Azerbaijan in recent decade?
After gaining independence in 1991, Azerbaijan and became an independent republic, it faced huge challenges on several fronts. Under the visionary leadership of Heyder Aliyev, the country pulled itself together and began in earnest its new life as an independent nation. Being a country of 9 million people, the country is moving fast towards economic and political development in the South Caucasus region based primarily on the exploitation of its huge hydrocarbon resources that the country has been blessed. Azerbaijan faces some of the most formidable political and economic development challenges that are rooted deep in the regional conflicts as well as the interplay of various geopolitical forces. With having extensive reserves of world’s largest oil and gas reserves coupled with the significant geographical location by being at the juncture of Asia, Europe and Middle East, Azerbaijan is proving as a fulcrum of peace and stability in the region. Initial years were chaotic as after gaining independence the country was settling down with various requirements of setting up the state structure. But with the visionary leadership of Azerbaijan President, Heyder Aliyev, the country was being steered away quickly to the path of prosperity. He was instrumental in identifying that the nation’s oil and gas resources potential could be the key in securing the independence and successful economic development of Azerbaijan following the country’s succession from the Soviet Union. The visionary leader made the major powers to invest and participate in Azerbaijan’s oil exploration and development thus creating mutually beneficial relations with European countries, Russia, Turkey and the US. It was during those years that Azerbaijan created a powerful industrial potential, which helped Azerbaijan a lot later in the period of independence. This was done by creating a broad partnership between Azerbaijan and investment companies of these leading actors while maintaining good terms with the regional states.
Later because of the hard work of leader and the nation, Azerbaijan witnessed huge economic boom based of the vision of the great leader Heyder Aliyev. The transformation began and Azerbaijan took huge benefits out of the various hydrocarbon contracts thus leading to the major movement of turning the economy of the country to a market economy. Today’s Azerbaijan is stable and prosperous while at the same time it is united and progressive. The economic independence and progress that the country has achieved during the time of Heydar Aliyev are continued and the incumbent government is still following those policies. The economic progress of Azerbaijan is coupled with social cohesion and evolution. It has an independent and clear foreign policy and thanks to all the visionary leadership of past and current both for their works for the people of the country. With incumbent President Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the vision is still carried on by him to make the country as one of the leading and greatest emerging economies of the world. This can be reflected from the fact that in 2011, the GDP growth rate increased to manifold as compared to the early years while Azerbaijan owns 70 per cent of the reserves in the South Caucasus while over the past several the strategic currency reserves increased 23 times.
What is your idea of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his policies?
Heir to the great leagacy of his father, Ilham Aliyev being President of Azerbaijan has put forward various policies and gave an outlook that how Azerbaijan would look inwards and outwards. Regarding foreign policy of Azerbaijan, President Illham has based his vision over the concept given by his father, the great leader of Azeri nation. He said “Our foreign policy is based on ensuring peace in our region and the world. Our principal goals are to better introduce Azerbaijan to the world, secure its independence and territorial integrity in line with international legal rules, establish mutually beneficial cooperation based relations with all other countries, reinforce our country's position at the international level and advance science and culture.” Azerbaijan took the prestigious seat of United Nations Security Council(UNSC) as non-permanent member because of the sucessful diplomacy of President Illham.
At the domestic front, President Illham made no stone unturned to make the progress visible and inclusive to all the segments of the society. The state made all possible steps to create jobs in oil and non-oil sector, production and construction fields. To make further dissiminate the development within the country, construction of new modern social infrastructure enterprises has been made possible including contruction of new education, health and sports facilities formed the basis of general dynamic of sustainable progress of the society in the country. Along with this, the state took all possible steps to solve the social problems by also creating system of social security including rise of salaries and swift pension system in compaliance with advanced international standards. All these steps were made to reduce poverty and improve standards of living within the country thus enhancing the internal stablity and peace within the country. Because of these visionary domestic policies UN Development Programme on human development in 2010, Azerbaijan left the group of countries with “average human development” and entered the group with “high human development”.
What are Azerbaijan’s economical and political perspectives in years to come?
While being at the UNSC as a non-permanent member state, the great achievement amongst the nations of the world amplify the independence and statehood of Azerbaijan as 155 states of the world endorsed the presence of Azerbaijan in UNSC. Once a backward nation has now been called as “Tiger of the Caucasus” for its fastest growing economy based on oil and energy. President Ilham has remained instrumental in playing an indispensable role in keeping the country united, independent and sailing smoothly on a steady path of economic development.
What is your approach to dealing with the Karabakh conflict?
The conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus region has a long historical dimension that goes back to the time of Stalinist era and communist imperial powers over the land. After the Glasnost and end of the Cold war gave birth to various conflicts in the region among which the territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the land of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been unjustifiably occupied by Armenia, has remained the bloodiest test. When Azerbaijan regained its independence, Armenian troops occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other districts of Azerbaijan. In 1993, the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions numbered 822, 853, 874 and 884, describing Armenia as an occupying power of Karabakh and demanded withdrawal of the Armenian forces from Karabakh and other occupied districts. The unjust occupation and atrocities of the Armenian forces has caused a million ethnic Azerbaijani people to take refuge in neighboring regions. This “mountainous black garden” as been translated widely remained under war and scene of killings and hatred for several decades. International community in general and Pakistan in particular has always stood by Azerbaijan in its stand point on Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pakistan and people of Pakistan can well understand and feel the pain of Azerbaijani people and sufferings of people of Nagorno-Karabakh because we are facing the bloodshed in Kashmir since the time of our inception in 1947. Kashmir conflict has remained an unresolved legacy by British imperial rule and this dispute remained in lurch and it has continuously remained an issue of discord between India and Pakistan. It has now internationally recongnised that there are three parties to this dispute, India, Pakistan and Kashmiris. It is the people of the Jammu and Kashmir who are the sole owners of their destiny and are free to have their own choice and no durable solution can come about without taking the aspirations of the Kashmiri people into account. The whole dispute has a long history of emotions and tears of six decades and now it is the time that this conflict must be resolved. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see movement on the Kashmir question in the near future since other concerns, including terrorism-especially after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, have come to dominate the India-Pakistan political equation. Since the beginning of this dispute in 1948, various proposals have been put forward by India, Pakistan but the conflict is where it is at the moment, still burning and bleeding. Thousands have been killed or are missing since the Kashmiris began their present struggle against the Indian rule in 1989. It is time to work towards peace acceptable to Pakistan India and above all to the Kashmiris.
Both conflicts although thousand miles apart but are almost replica of each other for the reasons of sharing their similarities of various magnitudes. It can be said that together these conflicts are where human sufferings make them much closer to each other; their disputants either don’t consider these facts but thinking beyond would only resolve the conflicts of such magnitudes. In case of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Azerbaijan is thinking to resolve the conflict on the basis of being provided its territorial integrity and being ensured the return of internal displaced persons of 1 million Azerbaijani population of occupied territories to their native lands. But Armenia insists that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Armenians by rejecting peace. While in case of Kashmir, Pakistan is provided all help and work to build sustainable peace in Kashmir according to the wishes and aspiration of Kashmiris. Pakistan has always put one foot ahead of India in making the “Composite Peace Process” where core issue is Kashmir to work between both nuclear armed states in Asia. But due to the stubborn attitudes of Indian establishment the conflict is still lingering and no concrete further development has been observed since many years.
Wars are not always the solutions to the conflicts; they only bring tears and distress. What is now necessary that to think “enough is enough” be it the conflict of Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir or Nagorno-Karabakh. We have to stand out and put an end to the tyranny and suffering of the humanity and in this regard role of international community is required. There is also much more is required from the countries involved in the conflict since the indigenous solutions would only be long lasting solutions to these conflicts.