Central Asia is often referred to as extended neighbourhood’ and India’s outreach to Uzbekistan is important from this perspective. Bilateral relations today encompass a wider canvas, including on political and strategic issues, defence and security, trade and investment, energy, agriculture, S&T, education and people-to-people ties.
The bilateral Summit provides an opportunity to both sides to further enhance their strategic partnership through high level political contacts, strengthen defence and security cooperation, enhance development partnership and work on connectivity initiatives, well-placed sources told ET.
India and Uzbekistan declared their Strategic Partnership in 2011. The dynamism to this partnership was imparted by the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2015 when his back-to-back visit to all the five Central Asian countries demonstrated a new determination on India’s part to reach out to all Central Asian countries.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s first and highly successful visit to India in October 2018 and his visit to Gandhinagar to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January 2019 on the personal invitation of Prime Minister demonstrated the keenness on the part of the leaders of both the countries to strengthen the strategic partnership, diplomatic sources recalled .
The bilateral trade at about USD 247 million is still well below potential. Both leaders have therefore set a trade target of USD 1 billion. The Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) that are under advanced stages of negotiation. Indian companies have already started looking positively at Uzbekistan with investments of about USD 61 million in recent years, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector.
An important area of cooperation in recent times has been in civil nuclear energy. India and Uzbekistan concluded the agreement on long-term purchase of uranium by India which was signed during the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January 2019.
Defence and security cooperation has become an important pillar of our bilateral relationship. The visit of Defence Minister and of the Uzbek Interior Minister in November 2019 put defence and security cooperation on a firm pedestal. The first joint military exercise in counter-terrorism (Dustilik-Friendship) was held during the visit of Raksha Mantri to Uzbekistan. Training and Capacity-building of Uzbek defence forces is being carried out under our ITEC programme.
Cooperation between the two countries is also taking place at the level of states and regions of Uzbekistan. During the visit of Gujarat Chief Minister to Uzbekistan (Andijan region in particular) in October 2019 and a follow up visit by the Uzbek side in November 2019, a total of 23 agreements were signed and 59 projects worth USD 992 million were identified in various fields including agriculture, animal husbandry, food processing, gems and jewellery, automotive sector, textiles, pharma, IT and others. These are being implemented. The Uzbek side is interested in expanding inter-regional cooperation between other regions of Uzbekistan and states of India like Haryana and Fergana.
Uzbekistan is the first country in Central Asia with which India started development partnership in terms of extending Lines of Credit. PM had announced a USD 1 billion of Line of Credit (LoC) and Buyer’s Credit for Uzbekistan in 2018. Four project proposals received from the Uzbek side in sectors of road, sewerage and IT amounting to USD 448 million have already been approved.
A new dimension of development partnership with Central Asian countries is the provision of grant assistance for implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) as announced during the India-Central Asia Dialogue in October 2020.
With India as the world’s largest democracy and its vast experience of running a successful parliamentary democracy, the Uzbek side desires close relations between its Oily Majlis (Parliament) and the Parliament of India. The Uzbek Parliament has also constituted an India Friendship Group in their Parliament.