ISLAMABAD: Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sohail Mahmood co-chaired the fifth round of bilateral political consultations between Pakistan and Tajikistan with First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Khusrav Noziri in a virtual mode. The two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations in political, security, economic and trade, science and technology, education, culture and connectivity as well as cooperation at international and regional fora. Recognizing significance of Tajikistan as a gateway to Central Asia, the foreign secretary expressed satisfaction at the growing pace of mutual cooperation over the past three decades. He emphasized importance of augmenting multi-dimensional bilateral cooperation within the framework of a strategic partnership for mutual peace, progress and prosperity. Expressing deep concern on the rising challenge of COVID-19 amid third wave, he stressed international cooperation and solidarity to effectively combat challenges posed by the pandemic and to adopt joint measures. He underscored the importance of holding regular political dialogue as well as high-level and parliamentary interactions to deepen mutual cooperation and ensure regular follow-up. Both sides agreed to fast track finalization of various bilateral agreements and MoUs in order to further institutionalize cooperation in diverse fields. He emphasized the need to increase volume of bilateral trade and investments through trade diversification, increasing business-to-business contacts, resuming air links, and enhancing cooperation in the energy sector. It was agreed to hold the next meeting of Pakistan-Tajikistan Inter-Governmental Commission and Joint Working Group on Education and Science and Technology at an early date. The foreign secretary highlighted the government’s socio-economic agenda and shift in focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. He said that the government aimed at leveraging Pakistan’s immense potential of regional connectivity through development of CPEC and providing shortest possible route from Central Asia to Arabian Sea through Pakistani seaports of Gwadar, Bin Qasim and Karachi. The two sides also discussed ways to develop greater collaboration among students, artists, academicians and leading universities of the two countries to boost educational and cultural linkages by building on common heritage. Exchanging views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, he underscored the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan for the progress and prosperity of the region. He expressed support for a negotiated, political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. In this context, he highlighted Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan peace process. He highlighted the situation in occupied Kashmir marked by human rights violations and attempts to change demographic structure. He stressed the need by India to create enabling environment and to peacefully resolve the Jammu Kashmir issue according to the UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The two sides expressed satisfaction on mutual cooperation at the multilateral fora, including at the UN, OIC, SCO and ECO and reaffirmed their resolve to continue collaboration on global and regional issues of common interest. Pakistan and Tajikistan are celebrating the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations, this year. Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Dushanbe for a bilateral visit in March 2021. The two sides agreed to maintain the momentum of high-level bilateral exchanges and visits at the highest level.