After Kazakhstan’s promise of 2,000 tonnes of the nuclear fuel, Uzbekistan to has come forth with similar quantity

In its quest for uranium, India is finding assistance from its age-old friends in the sub-continent.

After Kazakhstan’s promise of 2,000 tonnes of the mineral, Uzbekistan has now offered to provide a similar quantity for fuelling nuclear plants in India.

In April, External Affairs Ministers renewed his acquaintance with the Uzbek leadership during an impromptu midnight stop at the Tashkent airport on his way back from Moscow. In the historic city, with its emerald-coloured minarets and an abiding love for all things Indian — especially films and music — Mr. Khurshid continued discussions that begun during Vice President Hamid Ansari’s visit to the country in May.

The Minister picked up the threads on arriving here from Kyrgyzstan after attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Bishkek. In two engagements with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, besides agreeing on the supply of uranium, the two Ministers also discussed a transport route that will snake its way upwards from the Iranian warm-water port of Chabahar, where India has earmarked initial investment of $100 million.

While an entry into the oil-and-gas-rich Uzbekistani province of Karakal-Pakistan is off the radar for now, the Uzbek context is very vital for this Indian endeavour sending goods to Chabahar and then onwards via Afghanistan into Central Asia, the Caucasus and beyond. This is because Uzbekistan has built a railway line across the Amu Darya into rail-less Afghanistan, explained Ajay Bisaria, Joint Secretary (Eurasia), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

This railway line is now being extended via a $450-million international loan to the Afghan city of Herat, which is close to the Iranian border. The task ahead is to connect this line to Mashad in Iran. Tehran has promised to take care of the link between Mashhad and Chabahar, pointed out the MEA’s secretary (East) Ashok Kantha.

“What we have indicated to Uzbekistan is to link up the common elements where there can be no disagreement,” added Mr. Khurshid. For the Uzbeks, this will mean getting access to this warm-water port in Iran.

Mr. Khurshid admitted Indian businessmen have not shown the requisite staying power in Uzbekistan and other officials spoke of the unsavoury activities ranging from human-trafficking in the name of medical tourism by some who are still here, the Uzbek Foreign Minister stressed on the need for greater interaction between the people of both countries.