ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be in Azerbaijan today on a three-day official visit to highlight the Kashmir issue and improve bilateral ties, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

His visit comes as Pakistan and India go through a new phase of tension after the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter and the subsequent unrest in the valley.

Tension between the nuclear-armed Pakistan and India soared after a militant attack on an Indian army base last month killed 19 soldiers, with the two armies exchanging fires across the Line of Control.

The Foreign Ministry said the mutual support on the occupied Kashmir dispute and the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was a testimony to the close understanding between Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

“The Prime Minister will embark on a three-day visit to Azerbaijan wherein he would discuss with the leadership of the host country the bilateral relations, economic cooperation besides exchanging views on regional and international issues,” it added.

At the invitation of President Ilham Aliyev, this will be the first visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Azerbaijan. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, said the foreign ministry statement.

The visit to Azerbaijan is reflective of the Prime Minister’s vision to enhance and strengthen Pakistan’s relations with the neighbouring and regional countries, it said.

Pakistan accords high priority to its deep historical and cultural bonds with the regional countries and is committed to expand cooperative relations with them, the statement said.

During stay in Baku, the Prime Minister will hold talks with President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Artur Tahir Rasizade.

The leaders will discuss bilateral relations with economic cooperation, including trade and investment, to be the key focus of their talks.

The leadership of the two countries would also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, with particular attention to the situation in South Asia and Pakistan’s policy of peaceful neighbourhood. A joint declaration is also expected to be signed during the visit.

Pakistan and Azerbaijan enjoy close and cooperative relations, which are underpinned by commonalities of history, culture and faith.

The bilateral ties are characterized by mutual respect, shared perceptions and common desire to promote peace, stability and development in the region.

The two countries also share common views on major regional and international issues and cooperate closely in the regional and multilateral forums, including the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Economic Cooperation Organisation.

Pakistan was among the first few countries that recognized the independence of Azerbaijan in October 1991, established diplomatic relations and opened a resident mission in Baku.