Reinvigorating Pakistan-Belarus Relations: Building Blocks for Future Cooperation
Author<br><br>Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram

Author

Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram

Executive Director,
Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad

Published on 9th March 2021

Reinvigorating Pakistan-Belarus Relations: Building Blocks for Future Cooperation

In 1991, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union Socialist Republics (USSR), Belarus emerged as a sovereign state. The country is bordered by Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine. Since the independence, the country has pursued a gradual transition path, characterized by effective structural reforms, robust civil administration and a modest expansion of the public-private sector. Due to the gradual structural policy transformation, the country has witnessed a successful phase in enhancing the sphere of economic cooperation with the rest of the world. Since the establishment, the first and only President of Belarus, His Excellency, Alexander Lukashenko has emerged as a powerful visionary leader. He introduced one of the best mechanisms for the state administration, reforms and pervasive economic networks. In this aspect, the reforms have paved the way for the country to open its market and increase its export of the manufacturing sector.  The changes in socio-economic structures have resulted as a boon for the country as it is now demonstrating the model of a more accountable and modern nation. The policies adopted by Belarus were deeply focused on upgrading and modernizing the state-owned enterprises. One of the main factors that enabled Belarus success was pursuing common economic goals, while having great relationships with the other neighboring countries. The state is considered one of the fast-growing economies in the world. The government has moderated the structural adjustments relevant to the economic policy in a way that businesses and households needed to respond to the economic situation and institutional setup. In this regard, the paper takes Belarus as a relevant case study for the manifestation of the current robust economic structure through a transformative policy orientation process.  This paper also addresses the prospects of cooperation between Pakistan and Belarus to enhance the sphere of economic development and academic cooperation.

Belarus Unique Economic Model: An Overview

The economy of Belarus is in transition, with structural features inherited from the former Soviet bloc. It has relatively low levels of inequality and poverty. Its agriculture and manufacture industries are one of the world’s best and largest industries. It accounts for 31.3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employing 30% of the active population. The sector of agriculture accounts for 6.8% of the country’s GDP and 11% of the working population. In this aspect, nearly 60% of agricultural production is concentrated in highly subsidized state-owned cooperative farms. Moreover, it is witnessed that the Belarusian economy has been growing through ranks of moderately free economic policies and the GDP has been expanding at a healthy pace.

Reinvigorating Pakistan-Belarus Relations: Building Blocks for Future Cooperation

 

The above-mentioned figures highlight, Belarus increased economic activities and constructive engagement in different segments. A vital shift can be seen in almost every sector in the years to come. Furthermore, the country is blessed with multiple natural resources. For example, wood, minerals, fields of oil & natural gas, granite, limestone, clay, sand, peat and dolomite. This sector also generates lucrative profits for the state.

Reinvigorating Pakistan-Belarus Relations: Building Blocks for Future Cooperation

 

The industry of Information Technology (IT) plays a key role in the Belarusian economy. During the last two decades, the IT industry has distinguished itself from other economic sectors by steadily growing revenues, exports, workforce, and other indicators. The measures taken by the government to elevate the production in the IT and services segment include the creation of Hi-Tech Parks (HTP) and a special regime for IT companies. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is the fastest-growing sector in the national economy in terms of both investment inflows and exports. Furthermore, the details of key micro-economic indicators of Belarus are given below:

Reinvigorating Pakistan-Belarus Relations: Building Blocks for Future Cooperation

Regional Cooperation: An Overview

In 2016, His Excellency, Alexander Lukashenko released all the political prisoners. This great gesture has been taken by the international community positively and as a response, the sanctions against the president were lifted by the European Union (EU). This diplomatic gesture opened more avenues of cooperation between Belarus and international organizations. For example, alignment with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), has proved to be a great advantage for the country as it has exceptional potential in the trade-commerce sector.

Moreover, due to the cultural affinity, Belarus has been enjoying great cordial and economic relations with Russia. This gives it access to the Russian markets, cheap energy resources and massive business investment. At a broader level, the triangle, China-Pakistan-Belarus could be significant for long-term cooperation and economic connectivity. Belarus is associated with the grand initiative of Belt and Road (BRI), which holds a great opportunity for the trio to cooperate at a bigger level. In this context, Belarus alignment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would provide a number of opportunities for trade and investment. As Gwadar port has turned into a mega-hub for trade and commerce, Belarus being a landlocked country can enhance its spheres of economic activities with Pakistan. In this perspective, the prospects of collaboration are high. The multilateral cooperation would be a win-win situation for all the partners involved in this grand project of CPEC, which has the potential to change the patterns of regional integration to an unprecedented extent.

Pakistan-Belarus Ties: Gauging Potential

On 31 December 1991, Pakistan recognized the Republic of Belarus. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on 3 February 1994. Moreover, in July 2014, Belarus opened its diplomatic mission in Islamabad at the Ambassadorial level. The Embassy of Pakistan in Minsk was established in August 2015. Since the establishment of resident diplomatic missions by both states, bilateral relations have grown at an unprecedented rate. However, there are still certain loopholes that need to be curtailed with more collaboration.  

Nevertheless, the leadership of both of the countries have paid number of visits to each other’s capital. As a result, numerous Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and agreements have been signed, pertaining to advancing cooperation in various fields. For instance, trade and investment, import and exports, science and technology and higher education. Following characteristics of broader cooperation could be harnessed further for strong bilateral relations:

  • Effective, result-oriented all-inclusive economic cooperation Closer business to business interaction
  •  Extending political support at various international forums
  • Dynamic cooperation in various fields including culture, education and vibrant defense linkages
  • Build comprehensive inter-regional cooperation

Furthermore, Belarus’s ambitious implementation of market and economic strategies has given a great opportunity to Pakistan to enhance its partnership with it. Having efficiency in the manufacturing market, Belarus exports tractors, tires, potash fertilizers, food products, synthetic filament tow, and other machinery and chemical products to Pakistan. The imports include rice, fruits, vegetables, leather goods, and textiles products. However, the manufacturing of tractors constitutes the lion’s share of Belarusian exports to Pakistan i.e., 64% of total export revenues. In terms of military and defense cooperation, Belarus has been collaborating with Pakistani defence officials since 2014. Pakistan is interested in electronic warfare technology and optical-electronic devices. In this aspect, both of the countries have the advantage to reinvigorate the structure of defense buildup. In the present course of time, Pakistan’s Ministry of Science and Technology and State Committee on Science and Technology (SCST) of Belarus, has taken an initiative to facilitate joint projects related to science and technology to strengthen bilateral cooperation. The technological projects (2019-2021) are determined by specifying the priority areas. For example, the ICT sector and many other relevant areas. Joint programs like these have the potential to foster business collaboration, investment patterns and increase people-to-people contact vis-à-vis culture exchange. In 2020, governments of both countries were agreed on the ambitious goal of investment of $1bn of trade. In this aspect, it can be anticipated that in the future, the ratio of investment would be high and more areas of cooperation will be incorporated.

Conclusion:

For more than a decade, Belarus and Pakistan have experienced new dynamics of mutual interest and cooperation with a result-oriented diplomatic meeting.  With the advanced collaboration in achieving the goal of a shared future, many brilliant prospects are present. Bridging people to people gaps can be done through the facilitation of student exchange and scholarship programs. Governments of both countries have the potential to the extent academic domains. This will be beneficial for a longer term to project a soft image at the international level by providing higher education opportunities. CPEC is a mega project and will help in increasing interconnectivity in the regions and beyond.  Pakistan can work proactively to learn from Belarus about its successful indicators of economic prosperity. It will help to build long-lasting peaceful ties between both countries and further enhance the cooperation in various sectors in near future.

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