Interaction with Dr. Eldor Aripov, Director, Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies (ISRS), Tashkent, Uzbekistan
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Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) hosted Dr. Eldor Aripov, Director, Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies (ISRS), Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Dr. Aripov was accompanied by H.E. Mr. Dilshod Akhatov, Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan to India and Mr. Azamjon Mansurov, First Secretary, Uzbek Embassy to India. The VIF’s panel of speakers included Amb D. P. Srivastava, Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Amb Skand R Tayal, Amb. Vinod Kumar, Lt. Gen Ravi Sawhney, Brig. Vinod Anand, and Dr. Pravesh Kumar Gupta. Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director VIF delivered the Opening remarks, followed by the remarks of H.E. Ambassador Dilshod Akahtov. The agenda for the discussion broadly centered on India-Uzbekistan bilateral relations, regional security, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Afghanistan, connectivity issues and energy security.

Uzbekistan is both an extended neighbour and a strategic partner for India. India and Uzbekistan have had close historical and cultural ties since ancient times. This relationship has many facets, including political, trade-economic, educational, scientific and technological, industrial, agricultural, civil aviation, and defence cooperation. 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.
The discussion with Dr Eldor Aripov brought out some salient points:

Regional Security and Afghanistan
  • Each Central Asian countries adopted different approaches towards Taliban.

  • Being a frontline state, Uzbekistan is a key stakeholder in the political and economic developments of its southern neighbour, Afghanistan. The developments in Afghanistan have a direct impact on Uzbekistan. India has invested approximately 3 billion USD for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. Similarly, an unstable Afghanistan has implications for India’s security and connectivity with Central Asia.
  • Both India and Uzbekistan conform to UN resolution 2593 on Afghanistan which clearly mentioned that Afghan land should not be used against any other country. Moreover, there should be an inclusive government in Afghanistan and Rights of Women and minorities should be protected.
  • Uzbekistan's practical involvement with Afghanistan relies on changing the country's image. Afghanistan is viewed as a challenge by Central Asia and other neighbouring countries, but by including Kabul into economic and transportation initiatives, this impression may be changed.
  • Uzbekistan has addressed the topic of unfreezing Afghan assets and opening talks with the Taliban on multiple platforms. Tashkent's strategy is aimed at preventing Afghanistan from becoming isolated and uncontrolled.
  • Humanitarian aid is delivered through Uzbekistan to Afghanistan. India has also supplied humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
India-Uzbekistan Bilateral Relations
  • India-Uzbekistan share close historical and cultural relations expanding more than two millennia.
  • India and Uzbekistan have a modest bilateral trade turnover of over 400 million USD.
  • Although the volume of the trade is low but the dynamic are promising. There is an upward trend in India-Uzbekistan trade.
  • 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.
  • Cooperation in medical sector is also promising. Indian hospitals are setting up branches in Central Asia. Similar Central Asian medical colleges are establishing braches in India. Central Asia is also a popular destination for study of medical science for Indian students.
  • Visa simplification is highly required to enhance multifaceted cooperation.
  • Cooperation in IT sector needs to be highlighted.
  • India’s experience of Atma Nirbhar Bharat can be promoted amongst the Central Asian countries.
Connectivity
  • Lack of direct connectivity is a major challenge impeding India’s reach to Central Asia. Uzbekistan is also a doubly landlocked country; therefore, both the countries 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) and 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.
  • The role of Iran in fostering connectivity between India and Uzbekistan, as well as other Central Asian nations, is critical. India's investment in Iran's Chabahar port is aimed at addressing connectivity issues between India and Central Asia. Chabahar has great potential, but collaboration with Iran and other Central Asian nations is critical to the success of this connectivity project.
  • CONCOR, a subsidiary of Indian Railways has signed a MOU with RDZ to issue Single Bill of Lading. Although, the present agreement is for Bandar Abbas to Moscow. The possibility of covering Uzbekistan and Central Asian Republics can be explored.
  • India Ports Global Ltd. (IPGL), the company formed under Shipping Ministry, GOI to develop Chabahar Port has handled 52 vessels in last 12 months and 82 vessels since December 2018.
  • IPGL has handled 1.2 million ton of bulk cargo. IPGL has handled more than 10,000 containers at Chabahar Port.
  • India is sending wheat via Chabahar to Afghanistan.
  • During 2021 (January to December), Chabahar port has handled 3.587 million ton cargo. This included 3.385 million ton import and 0.202 million ton exports.
  • Out of the total traffic, essential good were 1.727 million ton and oil products were 1.566 million tons. Containerized traffic was 134,000 tons.
  • However, there are many challenges concerning Chabahar like customs, accounting, banking and unawareness amongst the business entities in India etc.
  • Infrastructure exists from Bandarabbas port in Iran to Amirbad port (Caspian Sea), Inche berun (Turkmenistan border), and Sharakhs (tri-junction of Iran-Afghan and Turkmen border). With uncertainties about Afghanistan, these routes can be exploited for trade by India and Central Asian nations.
  • Uzbekistan has proposed that Trans-Afghan Railway which is another option for connecting India with Central Asia via Pakistan and Afghanistan. The already operational rail line from Termez to Mazar-e Sharif is proposed to be extended up to Peshawar in Pakistan via Kabul.
  • However, witnessing the sour history of Pakistan-India relations along with current political shift in Pakistani politics, there is very low possibility of their cooperation in Trans-Afghan Railway.
  • Green corridor between India and Central Asia is also a welcome initiative.
  • Development of Air corridor between India and Central Asia must be expedited.
Defence Cooperation
  • 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 meeting of the Council of SCO Heads of Government in Tashkent. He also inaugurated the first-ever joint military exercise ‘Dustlik 2019’ between India and Uzbekistan from 4-14 November 2019.
  • The Second edition of the India-Uzbekistan joint military exercise, DUSTLIK II, was held in March 2021 in Foreign Training Node Chaubatia (Uttarakhand).
  • On the 27th and 28th of February 2019, India and Uzbekistan convened their first annual Joint Working Group on Defence in New Delhi, followed by a visit by the Indian Defence Secretary to Tashkent in March 2019. India has provided a USD 40 million Line of Credit to the Republic of Uzbekistan as part of defence industrial cooperation.
  • Delhi also hosted two defence industrial workshops in September 2019 and November 2020, with the participation of members from both the public and commercial sectors.
Event Date 
April 27, 2022

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