DUSHANBE - With a focus on regional connectivity, trade and energy, Pakistan and Tajikistan Wednesday agreed on exploring new avenues of cooperation by increasing collaboration in economy, defence and security, agriculture and education sectors.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is here in the Tajik capital on a two-day official visit, along with President Emomali Rahmon inked the Joint Declaration aimed at enhancing regional connectivity between the two countries and the region at large.

The two leaders emphasised close collaboration between Pakistan and Tajikistan both at the government and people levels, besides giving a further boost to their bilateral relations.

The two leaders also witnessed inking of memorandum of understanding on trade cooperation. Minister for Commerce Ghulam Dastgir Khan signed the MoU on trade cooperation along with Tajik Minister of Economy Naimatullah Hikmatullah Zada. 

The MoU on cooperation between University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi and Agriculture University, Dushanbe was signed by its Rector Naimatullah Faizullah and Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. 

The prime minister in his statement to the press at the conclusion of his one-on-one and delegation-level talks with President Emomali, said he was impressed by the "remarkable political stability, social cohesion and impressive economic progress" of Tajikistan.

He said the two sides discussed the importance of road, rail and air connectivity and said it was vital for regional integration, promotion of bilateral trade, tourism, people to people contacts.

"We have, therefore, resolved to multiply our efforts to increase connectivity between our two countries," he said.

Sharif said his visit had provided an opportunity to translate their close political ties into strategic cooperation in all spheres particularly economy, trade, investment energy and defence.

During the talks, the two sides also agreed to continue cooperation at international fora including the United Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Organization. 

Vowing joint steps against terrorism, the two sides agreed on holding first meeting of Pakistan-Tajikistan Joint Working Group on countering international terrorism.

Prime Minister Sharif said the two sides also identified the need for increased cooperation in agriculture, industry, education and culture.

He said Pakistan views with admiration the laudable socio-economic development and progress achieved under President Rahmon's leadership.

Prime Minister Nawaz said Islamabad attaches great importance to its relations with Central Asian countries, particularly Tajikistan. Both leaders agreed that connectivity holds key to regional integration.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction on the progress achieved so far in the economic sphere particularly with regard to CASA-1000 Project and hoped it would soon move into the construction phase. The prime minister stressed the need for further enhancing trade, energy and defence cooperation.

Prime Minister Sharif referred to the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Tajikistan and said as agreed in 2014, the two countries need to take measures to boost it to us $500 million in the next three years.

At the delegation level talks with his Tajik counterpart Qohir Rasulzoda here at the State Guest House, the prime minister discussed a whole range of bilateral issues.

He was accompanied by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir and Minister for Water & Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

Prime Minister Sharif said both the sides were committed to further strengthening their relationship in diverse spheres so as to build into a multi-dimensional partnership.

The two leaders noted the improvement in bilateral trade and called for identifying the weak areas and to take necessary measures to address these issues.

They pointed the need to determine new traditional and non-traditional trading goods and services.

In this regard, they directed the Joint Ministerial Commission to formulate a comprehensive framework.  Both the sides also agreed on the need to holding exhibitions to promote their products.

Prime Minister Qohir welcomed Pakistan's inclusion into the SCO and hoped it would be beneficial for the security of the entire region. He also pointed to the holding of the Joint Commission on Energy and Infrastructure on the sidelines of his visit.

Prime Minister Sharif reiterated Pakistan's offer to utilise its ports and connectivity with the rest of the world to boost Tajik exports to the rest of the world. He said Gwadar was the gateway to other Central Asian countries and beyond.

They also noted the need of resumption of flights between the two countries to boost people-to-people and business-to-business contacts.

Earlier, Prime Minister Sharif and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on Wednesday held one-on-one meeting and stressed close collaboration between the two countries in trade, energy and defence sectors.

In a meeting held at the Palace of Nation, the two leaders emphasised on tapping the opportunity to translate their close political ties into strategic cooperation.

PM Sharif and President Emomali expressed satisfaction that Pakistan and Tajikistan were celebrating 25 years of their friendship.

Sharif said Pakistan gave utmost importance to CASA-1000 electricity project which would increase regional cooperation.

He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would boost regional connectivity and highlighted that the Traffic Transit agreement of Tajikistan with Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan would be beneficial in this regard.

Sharif said Pakistan gave immense sacrifices in fight against terrorism and extremism and mentioned that Raddul Fasaad and Zarb-e-Azb were launched as counter-terror operations.

Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan wanted to resolve the issue of Kashmir with India through peaceful means.

He called upon international community to reject Indian policies on Kashmir.

He said peace and stability in Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan.

The two sides also identified the need for increased cooperation in agriculture, industry, education and culture.

Later the two leaders were joined by their aides for a delegation-level meeting at the presidential palace.