India is poised to play a critical role in protecting and maintaining peace and stability in Central Asia in the backdrop of developments in Afghanistan and India's strategic partnership with Afghanistan's neighbours such as Uzbekistan was of critical importance, observed Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari.
In an interaction with media personnel on aboard Air India-1, the Vice-President, who is leading a parliamentary and official delegation to Uzbekistan on a four-day visit, said India would explore the possibility of getting uranium supplies from Uzbekistan, a uranium-rich country.
Terming the relations between India and Uzbekistan as excellent, Mr. Ansari said both the countries had established a strategic partnership which included a Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism. Uzbekistan had been adopting more of a neutral stance on developments in Central Asia and the Indian delegation would discuss the common struggle against terrorism, which every country was afflicted with, in some form or the other.
On India's role in Afghanistan, in the backdrop of the U.S. security forces pulling out of the country, the Vice-President said India's interest in regional peace and stability in Afghanistan remained unchanged. “Our effort would always be to help the Afghan people. We have helped Afghanistan in building hospitals, road, power plants, railway lines... people have appreciated India’s help. We will continue to help them but we will not use Afghanistan as a front yard for some other thing."
On his meeting with the Chinese Premier Li, the Vice-President said his interaction with the Chinese leader was more on a philosophical plane. He had underlined the need for India and China to improve people-to-people relationship.
The Indian delegation was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Tashkent International Airport. Mr. Ansari was received by Ilgizar Sobirov, Chairman of the Senate of Oliy Majlis, and Akmal Kamalov, Deputy Foreign Minister and the Indian Ambassador A. Gitesh Sarma.
The Vice-President is accompanied by his wife Salma Ansari, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan and MPs E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Shivanand Tiwari, K.N. Balagopal and Sumitra Mahajan.