Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov arrived here to hold talks on strengthening security, communication and energy links.
This would be the first high level India-Uzbekistan interaction after the killing of Osama bin Laden, whose ideology had caused violence and mayhem in several Central Asian countries, particularly Uzbekistan, which is contiguous to Afghanistan.
The convergence of views on Afghanistan, Uzbekistan's efforts to enhance ties with South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan, and its bid to diversify customers for gas and oil will occupy centre stage during talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Karimov, who is on his fourth visit to India.
The views of Uzbekistan and India converge on regional security especially with respect to the situation in Afghanistan. Tashkent agrees with New Delhi's reasoning of winnowing the bad Taliban from the good and then going in for reconciliation with sections that have repudiated the al-Qaeda ideology of militancy and violence to usher a universal Islamic caliphate.
At the receiving end of an al-Qaeda inspired militancy, Uzbekistan has cracked down ruthlessly and nearly decimated the feared Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan especially after the Andijan stand-off with its security forces in 2005.
In opening up communication links, India will be especially interested in two proposed routes that would bypass Pakistan and the restive southern Afghanistan while giving it access to Central Asia. Both originate from Tashkent, pass through Termez in Uzbekistan and Mazar-e-Sharief in Afghanistan. They then branch off from the western Afghan city of Herat.
The proposed western spur goes to Delaram, follows the India-built road till the Iran border and, if the missing links are put in place, connects to the Iranian port of Chabar. The second alternative would pass through Iran's Sangan and Kerman cities before ending at the Banda Abbas port.
In both cases, India will have to ship its goods to the Iranian ports and then transport them by land into Afghanistan and Central Asian countries that lie in the north and the east.
Currently, part of the route in Uzbekistan is used by the NATO to send supplies to its forces in Afghanistan.
Another promising area of cooperation is energy. National companies have reached an understanding over sourcing underground coal gasification technology from Uzbekistan and are likely to sign a pact over identifying blocks for exploration, said senior Ministry of External Affairs official Ajay Bisaria.
The Gas Authority of India Limited is engaged in talks with Uzbekneftgas for scouting for gas in Karakal-Pakistan region.
Keywords: India-Uzbekistan relations