PM's Central Asia visit a mission to find more staunch friends

Photo: Bernama

TASHKENT: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's official visit to Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan in Central Asia last week yielded positive results not only in terms of economic cooperation and several other sectors but also in the mission to find more staunch friends.

While many leaders of other countries are focused on official visits to developed countries and great powers, visits to Central Asian countries may not seem to have a significant impact on economic progress.

During the May 14-19 visit to Central Asia, however, it could be seen that the Prime Minister emphasised efforts to increase trade involving a larger amount of Malaysian exports; among other goals.

Anwar was accompanied by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan; Investment, Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz; Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing; and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Dr Mohd Na'im Mokhtar.

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Apart from Mohamad, who is in charge of maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries, and Tengku Zafrul on matters related to trade and investment, the two other ministers had their targets during the visit.

Uzbekistan expressed its intention to establish itself as a centre for Islamic studies, particularly in the field of Hadith, since the country is the birthplace of prominent hadith scholars Imam Bukhari and Imam Tirmidhi.

The Prime Minister asked Na'im and the director-general of the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim) to explore leveraging their strengths while imparting Malaysia's experience to Uzbekistan.

In Uzbekistan, Anwar also used the opportunity to visit several locations associated with Islamic history and civilisation which are being promoted as tourist attractions.

On the second day, the Prime Minister and his delegation visited the Imam Hazrati Complex in Tashkent, where the world-famous Quran manuscript of Caliph Uthman Affan (Mashaf Uthmani) – the oldest in the world – is kept and displayed.

The complex is the religious heart of Tashkent with several well-restored mosques, madrasah museums and other pilgrimage sites.

ALSO READ: Malaysia, Kazakhstan ready to strengthen ties, explore new cooperation opportunities

It is an architectural monument dating from the 16th to 20th centuries. The complex has a rich library of oriental manuscripts in addition to the world-famous Quran of Caliph Uthman Affan.

Also on the second day, Anwar went to Samarkand, about 300km from Tashkent, to visit the Imam Bukhari Complex built around the tomb of Imam Bukhari.

He then visited the Samarkand Silk Road Complex which, among other things, houses the Eternal City, which accurately recreates the spirit of the ancient city as described in ancient books.

Anwar and the Malaysian delegation were also taken to the Shah-i-Zinda Complex which, among other things, houses the tomb of Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, who was also one of the earliest preachers to bring Islamic teachings to Uzbekistan.

He also visited the tomb of Amir Temur, the great ruler of the Timurid Empire, who initiated the construction of a strong and centralised state and promoted science and culture; before proceeding to Registan Square which houses the Ulugbek Madrasah, one of the world's leading mosques and once the largest centre of scientific study in Samarkand.

ALSO READ: PM's Uzbekistan visit creates more business opportunities for Malaysians

On the final day in Uzbekistan on Sunday (May 19), he departed for Bukhara where he visited the Naqshbandi Sufi Complex, which includes the tomb of Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari, the founder of the Naqshbandi order who died in 1389; followed by a visit to the Ark of Bukhara, a massive fortress initially built and occupied around the 5th century AD, and the Kalon Minaret Complex.

Uzbekistan was Anwar’s last stop on his official visit to three Central Asian countries after the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan.

The three countries expressed their aspirations to cooperate in developing the halal industry in their respective countries, with Uzbekistan expressing its intention to cooperate with Jaki to ensure that halal standards in that country reach the level implemented by the department.

The Prime Minister wants Malaysia to be more aggressive in marketing halal products across the entire industry, not just food and beverage products.

In terms of tourism, he also wants to see an increase in the arrival of tourists from Central Asian countries to Malaysia.

Uzbek tourists to Malaysia reached 25,000 last year, up from only 10,000 the year before.

At the conclusion of his visit to Uzbekistan, Anwar told Malaysian media that countries such as China, Germany and the United States of America are big investors, and their investments will provide benefits such as job opportunities and training centres of excellence.

However, international relationships and cooperation with developing countries are vital as Malaysia needs staunch friends to avoid being pressured by any powers.

"Therefore, we have good relationships with all powers, but networks with developing countries such as Uzbekistan will greatly assist us as they understand that we have the same approach and strategy,” he said.

Anwar also said all the ministers accompanying him to Uzbekistan had achieved their respective targets. – Bernama

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