India Familiar with Sights and Stories of Uzbekistan: PM Modi


On July 6 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Tashkent—one of the seats of Indology—in Uzbekistan on the first day of his five-nation Central Asia tour Asia tour

On July 6, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Tashkent—one of the seats of Indology—in Uzbekistan on the first day of his five-nation Central Asia tour. On his arrival the Indian head of government was received by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, his Uzbek counterpart, who accompanied him for the entire duration of the visit.

Modi met President Islam Karimov for over 90 minutes in a “restricted meeting” where they shared ideas related to bilateral and regional issues. The two leaders also met at a delegation-level talk.

“I am delighted to be in the historic and beautiful city of Tashkent.” Modi said in a statement to the media. “It carries the warmth of familiarity that comes from sights and stories we grow up with.”

The two sides also released a joint press statement where Uzbekistan President Karimov noted that “strengthening relations with India is one of the top foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan.”

PM Modi thanked President Karimov and the people of Uzbekistan for their “very warm welcome and hospitality” and praised the president for his “great vision and wisdom to steer Uzbekistan’s progress and [to] advance peace and prosperity in the region.” Modi also said few countries can match Uzbekistan in nurturing Hindi and Indian culture. 

In all, three agreements were signed by the two countries. Both sides agreed to strengthen the ongoing cooperation in the areas of agriculture, information technology, energy security and protocol on cooperation between the two foreign ministries. The leaders also discussed steps needed to implement the contract for supply of uranium from Uzbekistan signed earlier.

“What was really striking was that the two leaders struck an immediate personal rapport and had a very warm and focused conversation,” the external affairs statement said of the meeting between Modi and Karimov. “They tried to search out ways and means and arrived at solutions of taking the relationship between India and Uzbekistan to an entirely different level.”

The discussion between the two Asian leaders centred on trade and investment bottlenecks. Both sides stressed the need for surface and air connectivity. Prime Minister Modi said that he briefed the president about Uzbekistan joining the International North-South Trade Corridor as well as India joining the Ashgabat Agreement. Both sides also agreed on the need for a direct flight between Taskent and Indian cities. The two leaders also discussed expanding economic cooperation, combating terrorism, advancing stability in the region and promoting regional integration.

Modi and Karimov also discussed various regional issues such as terrorism, extremism, defence, cyber cooperation, trade and economy, the situation in Afghanistan post 2014 and other areas of cooperation. On the situation in Afghanistan the two leaders acknowledged the significance of peace for 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,” said the joint statement.

At the meeting the Indian PM proposed setting up a JWG in defence cooperation which was “positively responded to” by the Uzbek president. “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,” said Modi.

While President Karimov spoke about the contribution that India could make in the SCO in the coming years, PM Modi thanked Uzbek’s support for India’s membership to the SCO. Uzbekistan “confirms” its support for India’s permanent candidature to the UN Security Council.

“Our relationship with the region has ancient roots and has left a strong imprint on both,” said Modi in his media statement. “It now occupies a significant place in India’s future.”

The Indian prime minister sought to highlight Uzbekistan’s importance by his arrival at the Uzbek capital where he began his Central Asia tour. “This underlines this nation’s importance for India, not just in the context of this region, but also more broadly in Asia,” Modi said, and added that the two countries have built a strategic partnership on the foundation of mutual respect and shared interests.

Modi said his discussion with President Karimov was “cordial and productive” and the latter’s “perspectives will be of immense benefit” to him in the future. “I share President Karimov’s desire to raise the level of our economic engagement. 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,” Modi said, and added that the president has responded positively to his suggestion.

The two sides agreed that despite the growth in bilateral trade, the current volume of trade did not correspond to the potential and opportunities that exist in both countries. They agreed to take joint measures to expand and diversify the trade basket. One of the solutions, they agree upon, is promoting long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships among their business communities, companies and enterprises and to facilitate their participation in exhibitions, trade fairs, business forums and other joint business activities in Uzbekistan and India. 

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

The joint statement further “reaffirmed their interest in expanding and further strengthening long-term cooperation between India and Uzbekistan, covering diverse sectors such as political ties, security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, science and technology as well as cultural linkages.”

The two sides also stressed the need for a stronger bilateral cooperation in the sphere of health, medical education and pharmaceuticals and looked forward to conclude an agreement on cooperation in the health sector and medical science. A proposal has also been made to set up telemedicine links connecting medical institutions in Uzbekistan and India for medical consultations, exchange of experiences and teleconferences.

An agreement, Programme of Cultural Cooperation 2015-2017, has been signed and both sides “called for its full and timely implementation to expand cultural exchanges… [And] to expand participation of creative groups of both countries in international festivals held in Uzbekistan and India.”

Modi paid a visit to the Monument of Independence and Humanism and also paid tribute to former 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,” he said. The Indian prime minister extended an official invitation to President Karimov to visit India.

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