Uzbekistan is making a bid to join the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA), a transit trade deal among Pakistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to facilitate the passage of goods and traffic.

In order for the Central Asian country to join the agreement, Pakistan’s support is essential. Pakistan plays a central role in the QTTA because of its geostrategic location, via its Karachi and Gwadar ports which are to be utilised for trade operations, and because of the alternative route it provides due to the Karakoram Highway. This is why Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov made a formal request to seek Pakistan’s support for accession. Pakistan has responded well to the request, with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood assuring Pakistan’s support for Uzbekistan in QTTA.

The QTTA can play a part in positioning Pakistan as a central player, not just in South Asia, but also in Central Asia. Pakistan has multiregional characteristics, due to it being placed amongst crucial trade routes that link regions with each other. This can give us the unique opportunity to encourage trade levels not just within the region but also the aggregate global trade volume.

Due to India’s influence, and its increasing sway in Afghanistan, Pakistan needs this leverage. Pakistan’s access to trade in Central Asia has been circumvented before in Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement because of Afghanistan insistence that India be included in the bilateral trade. The QTTA provides Pakistan with an alternative gateway to Central Asia without Afghanistan. The QTTA thus should be strengthened. With this specifically, our strategic positioning as the gatekeepers of the Indian Ocean can bring us a windfall of revenue if done right.

In 2017, Pakistan successfully supported Tajikistan’s inclusion in the QTTA, an initiative which brought us several benefits in terms of energy imports. Uzbekistan’s inclusion will bring further trade benefits and elevate Pakistan’s standing as a global player.