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India, Uzbekistan ink pacts to boost cooperation

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Modi, Karimov discuss regional issues including Afghanistan

On his first visit to Central Asian countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held talks with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov on key bilateral and regional issues including the situation in Afghanistan as the two countries inked three pacts to boost cooperation between their foreign offices and in the field of culture and tourism.

Mr. Modi, who arrived in the Uzbek capital on the first leg of his eight-day visit to Central Asia and Russia, was received at the airport by his counterpart Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev and was accorded a ceremonial welcome.

Strategic, economic ties

Mr. Modi and Mr. Karimov discussed ways to enhance strategic, economic and energy ties apart from reviewing key regional issues including the situation in Afghanistan.

Addressing a joint press event with Mr. Karimov, Mr. Modi said, “I have begun my journey in Uzbekistan underlining its importance for India, not just in this region, but also in Asia. President Karimov and I discussed various initiatives to further enhance connectivity between India and Uzbekistan.”

On their discussions on regional and international issues, including the situation in Afghanistan, Mr. Modi said, “We also have shared concerns on the rising threat of extremism and terrorism in our extended neighbourhood.

Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism

“We agreed to intensify security cooperation and exchanges. The bilateral Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism will meet later this year. We also agreed to strengthen cooperation in defence and cyber security.”

He said his discussions with President Karimov were “very productive” and aimed towards further deepening of ties.

Noting that the two countries have built a strategic partnership, Mr. Modi said, “This includes expanding economic cooperation, combating terrorism, advancing stability in the region and promoting regional integration.”

The two leaders also discussed ways to implement the contract for supply of uranium from mineral-rich Uzbekistan signed last year. The pact was signed for supply of 2,000 metric tonnes of the yellow cake.

They also explored various initiatives to further enhance connectivity between the two countries and in this context, Mr. Modi briefed Mr. Karimov about the International North South Transport Corridor and proposed that Uzbekistan consider becoming a member. The Prime Minister also sought Uzbek President’s support for India joining the Ashgabat Agreement.

Ashgabat Agreement

The International North-South Transport Corridor is a ship, rail and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia while the Ashgabat Agreement is a transit pact established in 2011 between Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Oman.

On ways to raise economic engagement between the two countries, Mr. Modi said, “I conveyed to him that there is a strong interest in Indian business to invest in Uzbekistan. There is immense potential in a broad range of areas in Uzbekistan.

“I have urged him to make the process and the policies for Indian investments here smoother. President responded positively to my suggestion.”

Strengthening cooperation

Mr. Modi said President Karimov was also supportive of strengthening ongoing cooperation in the areas of agriculture, information technology and energy.

Noting that the pacts inked on Monday in the field of culture and tourism will bring people of the two countries closer, Mr. Modi said, “Few countries can match Uzbekistan in nurturing Hindi and Indian culture. Tomorrow, I look forward to meeting a vibrant group of Indologists and Hindi linguists.”

Ahead of his talks, Mr. Modi presented President Karimov with a specially commissioned reproduction of ‘Khamsa-i-Khusrau’ by the great 13th century sufi poet Amir Khusrau who was born in Uttar Pradesh and whose father hailed from Uzbekistan.

Written in Persian and profusely decorated and illuminated with various colours, the work is a part of the manuscripts collection of National Museum, Delhi.

Monument of Independence and Humanism

“Tomorrow, I will be paying a visit to the Monument of Independence and Humanism and the Memorial of Late Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. We are thankful to the people of Tashkent and Uzbekistan, for preserving the legacy of our former Prime Minister,” Mr. Modi said.

“This has been a very rewarding visit. It has sown the seeds of a rich harvest in the years ahead,” he said.

MoUs signed

President Karimov and Prime Minister Modi reached understanding on a wide range of issues to further deepen Uzbekistan-India strategic relations, mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in various fields, as well as international and regional issues of mutual interest, a joint statement issued later said.

The two sides reaffirmed their interest in expanding and further strengthening long-term bilateral cooperation covering diverse sectors such as political ties, security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, science and technology as well as cultural linkages.

President Karimov noted that strengthening relations with India is one of the top foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan while Prime Minister Modi emphasised that a strong strategic partnership between India and Uzbekistan is a key pillar of India’s engagement with Central Asia.

“The sides agreed to maintain regular bilateral consultations and political dialogue through exchange of official visits at the leadership and other levels to promote mutual understanding on bilateral as well as regional and international issues,” the joint statement said.

Noting the importance of adequate and timely responses to threats and challenges to national as well as regional security, the two sides expressed their intention to strengthen coordination between the law enforcement agencies and special services, including under the framework of the Uzbekistan-India Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.

Expand cooperation on cyber-security

They also agreed to expand cooperation in the fields of defence and cyber-security.

The two countries noted the importance of promoting long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships among their business communities, companies and enterprises.

The two sides also called for further promotion of investment cooperation between the two countries. They called for partnership in creating favourable conditions for investment by Indian companies in Uzbekistan, including in the framework of the Special Economic Zones “Navoi”, “Angren” and “Jizzakh”.

They noted prospects for joint investment projects in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, light industry, IT and communications.

Delegation-level talks

During the delegation-level talks, the two countries also agreed to explore various options to enhance surface connectivity between them.

The two sides recognised tourism as an important area of bilateral cooperation and agreed to implement practical measures under the framework of the bilateral agreement on cooperation in tourism signed during the visit.

“The sides discussed the situation in Afghanistan and noted that establishment of peace in that country is of great significance to the security and stability of the entire region. They expressed support for a genuine Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process for peaceful reconstruction and revival of the country,” the statement said.

India and Uzbekistan reaffirmed that the United Nations must play a central role in maintaining global peace and security, assisting common development and advancing international cooperation, it said.

The two countries called for comprehensive reforms of the UN structures, first of all, its Security Council, including expansion in both categories of membership. Uzbekistan reaffirmed its support to India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, the statement said.

Mr. Modi invited Mr. Karimov to pay a visit to India at his convenience. The dates of the visit shall be agreed through diplomatic channels.

Mr. Modi is in Tashkent on his first-leg of six nation visit including Russia where he will be attending Summits of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

From Uzbekistan, Mr. Modi will go to Kazakhstan on Tuesday. He will then travel to Russia on July 8, before flying to Turkmenistan on July 10, Kyrgyzstan on July 11 and Tajikistan on July 12.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2018 9:04:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/prime-minister-narendra-modis-visit-to-uzbekistan/article7392482.ece

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