ASTANA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the purpose of his visit to Kazakhstan was to strengthen ties and expand cooperation in different areas.

"There is a large scope for trade in textile and cotton products, pharmaceuticals, food items, engineering equipment and machinery and construction enterprises," Nawaz mentioned as he met his Kazakh counterpart Karim Massimov.

"Pakistan's ports (Gawadar and Karachi) provide the shortest route to sea for the Central Asian Republics (CARs)," he said, adding Pakistan was eager to see a prosperous Central Asia with all countries connected by rail, road and air-links and generating business.

"Pakistan offers Kazakhstan the shortest access to the sea."

Most of the Central Asian States had shown keen interest in using Pakistan's sea ports for their exports, he added.

Pakistan and Kazakhstan signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) for cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, defense and strategic studies and training in foreign services.

Nawaz and his Kazakh counterpart Karim Massimov witnessed the signing of MoUs.

Meanwhile, in a detailed interview published in the Astana Times, the leading English daily of Kazakhstan, he said the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Kazakhstan was far below its potential. There existed tremendous potential for enhancing the same, he added.

He stressed that both sides needed to make efforts to utilise all available options, while simultaneously exploring new areas of cooperation.

Responding to a question, Nawaz said that Pakistan supported the Conference for Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) process and actively participated in its activities.

Pakistan had recently joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which was also an important organization, he added.

“Pakistan believes that adherence to the UN Charter is essential for peace, stability and security in Asia. Principles of non-interference in internal affairs, development of friendly relations and settlement of disputes through dialogue should be promoted. There is an intrinsic link between development and security. Therefore, we should focus on regional connectivity and building economic synergies,” he said.

“Pakistan admires Kazakhstan's role for the international peace and security and has full confidence in our brotherly country and its visionary leadership. The Kazakh leadership created CICA, which contributes to peace and security. Kazakhstan is also an important member of SCO. We welcome Kazakhstan's increasing role as a peace building center,” Nawaz concluded.