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 like Uzbekistan is of critical importance, Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari has said.

In an interaction with journalists on aboard Air India-1, Mr. Ansari, who is leading a parliamentary and official delegation to Uzbekistan, said India would explore the possibility of getting uranium supplies from Uzbekistan, which has rich reserves of the heavy metal.

Mr. Ansari, who is on a four-day visit to Uzbekistan, termed relations between New Delhi and Tashkent excellent. He said both had established a strategic partnership that included a Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism.

Uzbekistan was adopting more of a neutral stance on developments in Central Asia and the Indian delegation would discuss fighting terrorism, which every country was afflicted with, in some form or the other.

On India’s role in Afghanistan, in the backdrop of the United States pulling out its security forces from that country, the Vice-President said India's interest in regional peace and stability in Afghanistan remained unchanged.

“Our effort would always be to help Afghan people. We have helped Afghanistan in building hospitals, road, power plants, railway lines...people have appreciated India 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 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, he said his interaction with Mr. Li was more on a philosophical plane.

He underlined need for India and China to improve relations between people of both nations.

The Indian delegation was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Tashkent International Airport. Mr. Ansari was received by the chairman of the Senate of Oliy Majlis, Deputy Foreign Minister Akmal Kamalov and the Indian Ambassador to Uzbekistan .

The Vice-President is accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Salam Ansari; Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan and MPs E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Shivanand Tiwari, K.N. Balagopal and Sumitra Jayant Mahajan.

Mr. Ansari visited the Hazrat Imam complex and Temirud museum in the evening.

He will interact with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov on Wednesday. Informed sources say issues of common interest, including counter-terrorism and future of Afghanistan, are likely to be the main issues of discussion.

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