Uzbekistan-India: Exploring New Horizons of Strategic Partnership
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The VIF, in collaboration with the Embassy of Republic of Uzbekistan in India organised a virtual webinar on Uzbekistan-India: Exploring New Horizons of Strategic Partnership on 18 October.

India shares close historical and cultural relations with Uzbekistan; however, the established common links have been hampered by multiple developments such as India’s partition, thus impacting adversely the frowth of bilateral ties. India’s increasing economic capabilities and geopolitical vitality have amplified its aspiration to reconnect with Central Asia in the recent past. In this direction, India-Uzbekistan relations have the potential to go beyond their current status. Prime Minister Modi paid an official visit to Uzbekistan in 2015. President Shawkat Mirziyoyev paid a state visit to India in October 2018 and again in January 2019 as the guest of honour at the “Vibrant Gujarat” Summit. These high-level visits have strengthened the mutual cooperation between the two countries.

India-Uzbekistan relations have witnessed tremendous growth after President Mirziyoyev came into power in December 2016. As the Presidential elections in Uzbekistan will be held on October 24, a joint webinar was organized by VIF and the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan to India on October 18, 2021 to assess the developments of New Uzbekistan and the current level of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. H.E. Mr. Dilshod Akhatov, Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan to India, delivered the opening remarks followed by Lt Gen. Ravi Sawhney, Centre Head, Neighbourhood and Strategic Studies and Senior fellow VIF. H.E. Mr. Furkat Sidikov, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, delivered the keynote address. Amb. D. P. Srivastava, Distinguished Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation, presented regional connectivity (INSTC & Chabahar). Amb Skand R Tayal, former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan, spoke on India-Uzbekistan Bilateral relations, and Prof Sanjay Kumar Pandey, Professor, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, JNU, made a presentation on Presidential Elections in Uzbekistan.

Salient points that emerged from the discussion are as follows-
  • Defence cooperation has seen a remarkable increase since the visit of Uzbekistan’s former Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Abdusalam Azizov to India from 4-7 September 2018.
  • The first annual Joint Working Group (JWG) on Defence was held on 27-28 February 2019 in New Delhi. Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh visited Uzbekistan on 1-3 November 2019 to attend the Council of SCO Heads of Government meeting in Tashkent.
  • He inaugurated the first-ever joint military exercise, ‘Dustlik 2019’, between India and Uzbekistan from 4-14 November 2019. The second episode of this military exercise was held in March 2021.
  • Being a frontline state, Uzbekistan is a key stakeholder in the political and economic developments of its southern neighbour, Afghanistan.
  • The recent developments in Afghanistan directly impact Uzbekistan and Tashkent’s role has been crucial in this regard.
  • India has also invested approximately 3 billion USD for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has implications for India’s security and connectivity with Central Asia. However, there is more uncertainty at present than any solution to the crisis in Afghanistan.
  • India and Uzbekistan have a modest bilateral trade turnover of over 300 million USD.
  • Pharmaceutical is a major area of both trade and investment by India.
  • Medical tourism to India has increased sharply in the recent past. Joint efforts to eradicate barriers to bilateral trade are highly required.
  • Lack of direct connectivity is a major challenge impeding India’s reach to Central Asia. Uzbekistan is also a doubly landlocked country; therefore, both nations will be benefitted from ongoing multimodal connectivity projects in the region.
  • Uzbekistan’s support to India for smooth connectivity to the region has two dimensions. Firstly, India could expedite Uzbekistan’s access to seas through its Chabahar and International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC). Secondly, it will also have better trade and investment opportunities with India.
  • Uzbekistan is not a member of INSTC, but President Mirziyoyev has expressed his willingness to join it during his state visit to India in October 2018.
  • Being members of the Ashgabat Agreement and International Road Transport Convention (TIR), India and Uzbekistan will probably expand economic relations in the coming years. An assessment of the progress in implementing the Ashgabat Agreement is also an issue of bilateral importance.
  • Lack of connectivity is also the biggest hurdle in supplying Uzbek uranium to India for its nuclear power plants. Uzbekistan also provides a productive location for Indian Investments, mainly in Pharma and agriculture sector.
  • During the recent SCO summit held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the member states flagged issues of regional importance. India firmly put forward its position on respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity while enhancing regional connectivity.
  • In his speech at the Summit, Uzbek President Shawkat Mirziyoyev focussed on economic projects and cooperation among the SCO member countries. He proposed to eliminate trade barriers, simplify customs procedures, and boost investment.
  • Uzbekistan’s engagement with its neighbours, regional countries and internationally has grown in the recent past. India is also cooperating with the Central Asian countries by having India-Central Asia summit level meetings.
  • The Second India-Central Asia Dialogue was held recently following a virtual format. India has extended a 1 billion USD Line of Credit (LOC) for priority development projects in energy, healthcare, connectivity, IT, agriculture, education, etc.
  • Educational cooperation between India-Uzbekistan has also witnessed development recently. Indian universities such as Sharda and Amity have opened their campuses in Uzbekistan, while Bukhara Medical institute has opened one of its branches in Noida International University. Sambhram University, based in Bangalore, has also opened a world-class Digital IT campus in Jizzakh, Uzbekistan.
Recommendations
  • There is an urgent need to develop cooperation in promoting historical and cultural heritage between India and Uzbekistan. Collaboration between Museums, archives, and libraries can be helpful in this regard. Also, joint research in the field of archaeology is highly required.
  • India’s pharma companies should establish their manufacturing base in Uzbekistan and increase medical supply to the region. Due to the consuming markets, there is also a need to create regional medical centres in Uzbekistan.
  • India-Uzbekistan cooperation in telemedicine, cybersecurity and distance technologies.
  • GPS, satellite information and remote sensing are the significant areas for bilateral cooperation.
  • Cooperation in developing Digital Economy is highly required. Collaborative digital platforms can be built.
  • There is already infrastructure in place to substantially use the potential of Chabahar and INSTC.
  • Indian Government subsidiary CONCOR can facilitate container movement at Chabahar between India and Uzbekistan and further to other CARs.
  • The government should incentivize the private sectors to make more use of the INSTC and facilitate Banking channels, Insurance facilities, and shipping support.
  • The signing of the India-Uzbekistan Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) should be accelerated to promote and protect bilateral trade.
  • Air corridors should be developed to facilitate the movement of perishable items.
  • Potential for promoting tourism, especially Medical tourism, are the sectors of cooperation that remained less explored.
  • Bollywood’s popularity in Uzbekistan can also add to the cultural cooperation by opening up Indian art and aesthetic centres in Uzbekistan and vice-versa.
  • Joint efforts at expediting the procedure of defence production and joint military exercises and training are required.
  • Following the lines of Indo-Uzbek think tank cooperation, India-Central Asia think tank forum should be formed.

The Webinar generated good interest, and there were many points of discussion.

Event Date 
October 18, 2021

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