ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan and Turkmenistan have taken a number of recent steps to bolster co-operation on trade and tourism, as both countries work to deepen relations.
Pakistani Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on January 9, for instance, met with Turkmen Ambassador to Pakistan Atajan Movlamov in Islamabad to discuss enhanced regional trade and multilateral co-operation between Pakistan and Central Asia.
To improve connectivity with the landlocked Central Asian countries, Sanjrani said that both countries need direct air links.
Both leaders also discussed the importance of the Pakistan-Turkmenistan Joint Government Commission, a joint body formed in August 2009 to review the entire range of the bilateral agenda between the two countries, and agreed that a meeting of the commission should be convened soon.
In March 2019, Rashid Meredov, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkmenistan, visited Pakistan and had separate meetings with President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan's ministers of finance, oil, gas power and water.
In the meeting, leaders from both countries stressed "further endeavours to enhance bilateral economic relations through joint ventures in mutually identified areas, particularly in the agriculture, textile, livestock, and IT sectors," Pakistan's Foreign Office said in a statement.
Pakistan and Turkmenistan have enjoyed friendly relations since 1991, when the latter emerged as an independent and sovereign state after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, according to Dr. Naeem Ahmed, chairman of the Department of International Relations at the University of Karachi.
A dominant topic in most of the meetings between the two countries is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which is currently under construction.
Iran, which opposes the project, has undertaken a number of political as well as violent attempts over the years to stop construction.
Under the project, natural gas will be pumped from the Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India by 2022.
This project will not only be a blessing for the energy-deficient region, but will also create job opportunities, Ahmed said, adding that Turkmenistan will generate revenue from the four countries the pipeline traverses.
Politically, the project also will help Pakistan and India become closer to each other and improve chances of peace in South Asia, he added.
Meanwhile, business associations from both countries have been facilitating a large number of commodity purchases after the formation of the Pak-Turkmen Joint Business Council (PTJBC).
In March, the Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce of Turkmenistan signed a memorandum of understanding to set up the PTJBC.
Daroo Khan Achakzai, an engineer and a PTJBC leader from Pakistan, said that the council has been working to develop strategies to assist businesses in both countries.
"It will strengthen and enhance bilateral economic relations between both countries in order to stimulate a two-way trade and investment flow within the frameworks of rules and legislations issued by the concerned authorities in both countries," Achakzai said.
Joint efforts against terrorism
Ashgabat has been working with Islamabad to counter terrorism for the past several years.
In 2016, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a meeting in Islamabad agreed to counter the threat of extremism and terrorism collectively to ensure peace and stability in the region and launch joint initiatives, the Express Tribune reported in March 2016.
Despite sharing a 744km-long border with Afghanistan, Turkmenistan remains largely unaffected by terrorism, however concerns remain.
"The presence of the Taliban, the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' Khorasan branch (ISIS-K), al-Qaeda and its affiliated Central Asian terror groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in Afghanistan and Pakistan pose a potential threat to Turkmenistan," said Bakhtawar Khan, an Islamabad-based security researcher monitoring security issues in Central Asian republics.