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India attempts to regain organic linkages with Uzbekistan with special focus on connectivity via Iran

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India is trying to regain or re- establish the organic linkages, which were always there, between India and Uzbekistan and India and Central Asia throughout history and high-level political exchanges between New Delhi and Tashkent in recent years have given impetus to connectivity links through Afghanistan and Iran.

This was a key highlight of a public session addressed by Indian Envoy to Uzbekistan Manish Prabhat and Uzbek envoy to India Dilshad Akhatov. The session organized last week by the leading public policy body Ananta Aspen Centre under its Ambassador series was held in the backdrop of Foreign Minister Jaishankar’s July 15-16 trip to Tashkent.

The state visit by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to India in October 2018, which resulted in the signing of 20 documents in different areas of cooperation, opened a new age in relations. Also the Uzbek President’s visit to India in January 2019, to participate in the vibrant Gujarat global investment summit confirmed Uzbekistan’s desire to intensify cooperation with India. A virtual summit between Mirziyoyev and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held in December 2020 in the last year that resulted in the signing of several pacts was first virtual summit for Uzbekistan with any country. Several other Indo-Uzbek Ministerial dialogues were held in 2020.

Last year, Indian and Uzbekistan concluded agreements on implementation of 15 investment projects for three billion USD. The Indian government has opened the credit line of $448 million for development projects in Uzbekistan in sectors such as road construction, construction of sewage systems and information technologies. An Uzbek- Indian Centre for entrepreneurship development has been opened in Taskent and Andijan and Gujarat have developed close business links. Amity University in Tashkent and Sharda University in Andijan were opened in 2018. Now several other Indian universities are working on establishment of their campuses. India has also offered $ one billion LoC to Uzbekistan.

It was the Government of Uzbekistan, which approached Government of India to identify, an Indian expert to come to Uzbekistan and build the first IT Park. The new IT parks have further been opened by this resident expert, we are looking at the, Indian companies which are already now residents of IT Park in Tashkent, and exploring business opportunities in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is also now an observer in the Eurasian Economic Union, which is a big single market, which is going to come up with the participation of Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. And India is having its own PTA negotiations with the Eurasian Economic Union, the joining of Uzbekistan will be another plus. Uzbekistan, which is the largest country in Central Asia on the basis of its population 35 million really opens a big opportunity for Indian traders and, Indian exports to look at this market. The India-Central Asia Foreign Ministers Dialogue was creation of India-Uzbek joint initiative.

“During the last four years, we have witnessed considerable intensification of trade and economic cooperation with India. Currently, there are more than 300 enterprises with the participation of Indian capital in Uzbekistan. This includes 200 enterprises with 100% Indian capital, joint projects worth over $650 million…The government of Uzbekistan is creating favourable conditions and welcomes investment by Indian companies in the production of chemical goods, medicines, textile industries, information technologies and telecommunications. Special attention, of course, is given to the implementation of joint projects with Indian companies in Uzbekistan’s free economic zones, including several pharmaceuticals. Herein, I would like to note that in Andijan, pharmaceuticals zone was created for Indian investors for example,” according to Akhatov.

Prabhat in his remarks noted, “There are four strands which have emerged in the strong partnership between India and Uzbekistan today. The first is that the high level exchanges have really grown and especially the leaders have really paid attention to this partnership. Secondly, this has opened new possibilities in a variety of fields. In fact, you can imagine that when in 2015 Prime Minister Shri Modi came to Uzbekistan, three bilateral agreements were signed. And in 2018, President Mirziyoyev went on a state visit to India, several bilateral agreements were signed and then during the virtual summit last year in December, eight bilateral agreements were signed. So, the sphere in which we are operating is expanding and it’s a very good period to focus on diverse and new spheres of relationship. Thirdly, I would like to say that the points of connectivity initiative needs attention from all the partners in the region, and Uzbekistan and India are rightly focusing their attention on connectivity because it is the key which will actually take the relationship to the next stage. And fourthly, while the bilateral political relations between India and Uzbekistan are very good, today, both countries have taken a region wide effort to aptly cooperate and they are thinking together on regional issues and global issues.”

Ambassador Alisher Kadirov head of the department of the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan who was also part of the session paid special attention to the outcome of the past high-level international conference “Central and South Asia: regional interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities”, held in Tashkent on July 15-16. According to Kadyrov, “The Forum aroused wide interest both in the region and in the international arena and became one of the largest international events held in the Uzbek capital over the past decades, where not only regional and world leaders, but also delegations from 44 countries and about 30 international organizations”.

He further suggested, “It is also necessary to strengthen and expand cooperation between analytical structures of our countries will discuss security and other problems in the context of promoting inter regional connectivity.”

Ashok Sajjanhar, who was India’s former Ambassador to Kazakhstan and an expert on Eurasia who presided over the session noted that Mirziyoyev has introduced several political, economic, social and institutional reforms, which have made Uzbekistan not only an attractive investment destination but also as a significant leader in Central Asia and the region.

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