India and Tajikistan agreed on Monday to elevate their strategic partnership to a new level by expanding cooperation in several key areas, including Information Technology (IT), energy, health, education, trade and commerce, mining and agriculture.

Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, in his statement after his talks here with Vice-President Hamid Ansari on the second day of his visit, stressed the need for a joint consultative effort before the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan next year. Regional stability was of prime concern for his country, he said. He urged India to work for the economic rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s people.

On his part, Mr. Ansari emphasised India’s commitment to the strategic partnership with Tajikistan. Cooperation on security issues as well as in countering cross-border terrorism was of prime importance. “Both the President and I agree that nations in the region, as well as the international community, should strengthen Afghanistan’s capacity to maintain peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people. We also discussed the international political situation and agreed to strengthen our cooperation in multilateral organisations,’’ he said in a statement. He termed his meeting with the Tajik President “very productive.” It was followed by “very constructive” delegation-level talks.

Mr. Ansari apprised the Tajik President of India’s drive to expand its relationship with the countries of Central Asia through a “Connect Central Asia Policy.” As part of this policy, India had begun the process of setting up a Central Asia e-Network, with its hub in New Delhi and spokes in the five Central Asian capitals. Plans were also under way to establish a Central Asian University.

Later, briefing journalists on the delegation-level talks, Secretary (East), External Affairs Ministry, Sanjay Singh said the two countries agreed to invite the private sector to explore opportunities for business in several sectors.

While India sought Tajik help in gaining expertise on better management of cotton crop, it also agreed to set up an Entrepreneurship Development Centre in Tajikistan.

The Vice-President also had one-to-one discussions with Prime Minister Akil Akilov and the Foreign, Energy, Education, Health and Agriculture ministers. Mr. Ansari visited the lower house of Parliament later in the day.

Tajikistan has a porous 1400-km long border with Afghanistan which it finds difficult to manage. It also shares a border with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China and a strip of its border is in proximity to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). It can play an important role in maintaining peace along the Afghanistan border and fighting jihadis, drug traffickers and Taliban elements. The infiltration of extremist forces into Tajikistan can have serious security implications for India also because of its proximity to PoK.

India has assisted Tajikistan in becoming the 159th member of the World Trade Organisation.