On the eve of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, among the many dozens of ministers who arrived in Islamabad was the Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan, His Excellency Ruslan Kazakbaev. He was received by His Excellency Ulanbek Totuiaev, the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan in Pakistan.

Since taking up his position as Ambassador in Islamabad, Mr Totuiaev has been making tireless efforts to bring Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan closer, cementing the relationships between the two countries through similarities that exist between the two nations. HE Mr Totuiaev has also been instrumental in personally taking groups of Pakistani businessmen from Pakistan to Kyrgyzstan for exploring investment and trade opportunities, and will be welcoming Kyrgyz businessmen to Pakistan in the next month.

His Excellency Mr Kazakbaev’s visit to Pakistan, although for the OIC meeting, is important because Pakistan has a lot to gain from strengthening bilateral relations – not just diplomatic but related to trade and tourism. Mr Kazakbaev will be meeting businessmen from Pakistan during his brief visit. Mr Kazakbaev and Mr Totuiaev are keen for the relations to blossom.

Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country with around 6 million inhabitants. It is also a part of the Euroasian Economic Union (EAEU) with other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS countries/ Central Asian states). This means that there are no trade barriers between member states, similar to the European Union (EU). A natural progression of the EAEU will eventually be similar freedoms as offered by the EU. This opens up immense opportunities for Pakistani businessmen who wish to trade with CIS countries or even invest in Kyrgyzstan.

As is the case with the Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan has a very hospitable culture, with food that is wonderful and people who are very friendly and caring. Whenever we hear of a former Soviet state, Pakistanis somehow start getting red flags. That is not the case with Kyrgyzstan and should not be seen to be an unsafe country. Kyrgyzstan is one of the safest countries, with a flourishing democracy. In February, a delegation of Pakistani businessmen visited the country, led by HE Mr Totuiaev. Delegates were pleasantly surprised when two hours after taking off from Islamabad airport, they landed at Bishkek airport. Upon arrival, delegates were met by Pakistani businessmen and Pakistani students. It is unbelievable that there are thousands of Pakistani students studying in Kyrgyz universities across the country, with all higher education in English. It was surprising to note that Kyrgyzstan has one of the most business friendly investment policies, and even more surprising were the trade opportunities available between the two countries. Because of its mountainous terrain, the tourism potential from Pakistan is huge, especially for those on a budget. It is a country that Pakistanis should not just know about, but should also be visited by them. As one Pakistani delegate put it, it is the Dubai two decades back but with policies that the UAE offers in 2022. Pakistani businessmen need to see Kyrgyzstan as having a lot of potential with many business opportunities, in fact in almost all sectors. Similarly, tourists should start considering it as one of their future destinations along with Baku and Istanbul, just a lot more nearer and cheaper. For those Pakistani students who wish to have an education from a foreign university, Kyrgyz universities offer a higher standard of education, comparable to other mid tier international universities.

— The writer is a

Senior Vice Chairman

of the Pakistan

Hotels Association