I have great pleasure in extending a very warm welcome to His Excellency Mr. Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, on his fifth State Visit to our country.

Tajikistan will celebrate the 21st anniversary of its independence on September 9. On this occasion, I wish to convey our best wishes to the people of Tajikistan and to congratulate President Rahmon on sagaciously guiding the destiny of his country for the last two decades.

Tajikistan is a key partner of India in the Central Asian region. We recently commemorated two decades of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. President Rahmon and I agreed that in view of the broad progress made in our bilateral relations, particularly in defence and security cooperation, we should elevate our relations to a ‘strategic partnership’.

President Rahmon and I are also in agreement on the need to enhance our trade and investment relations. I conveyed to President Rahmon our desire to see an early accession of Tajikistan to the WTO, which would assist in enhancing our bilateral trade. We also discussed opportunities for investments in free economic zones in Tajikistan. We hope to send a delegation from the private and public sectors to explore investment opportunities in these zones. Information technology, e-connectivity, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, textiles, leather goods, mining and renewable energy are some of the areas with high potential.

To intensify our developmental partnership, India has offered to undertake a series of development projects in Tajikistan. These include the setting up of an IT Centre of excellence, an e-network including tele-education and tele-medicine, medical centres, language laboratories, a fruit and vegetable processing plant and an Entrepreneurship Development Institute, as well as supply of agricultural machinery. We have also decided to enhance the number of training slots under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation training programme from 100 to 150 slots annually.

Cultural and people to people ties between our two countries date back centuries. The agreements signed today in the fields of culture and education will help renew such contacts.

The resumption of direct air links between New Delhi and Dushanbe by Tajik Air is a welcome development. However, surface connectivity challenges hinder the faster growth of our bilateral ties. We agreed to explore the possibility of establishing transport corridors, including rail lines, in cooperation with other countries of the region.

India and Tajikistan have common concerns regarding regional developments. President Rahmon and I exchanged views on the situation in the Central Asian region and beyond, particularly in the context of the security transition in Afghanistan. We also agreed to deepen our counter-terrorism cooperation.

I once again welcome President Rahmon to India.

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