H.E. Mr. Dilshod Akhatov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan
Ambassador TCA Raghavan, Director General, Indian Council for World Affairs,
Mr. Eldor Arpiov, Director, Centre for International Relations Studies,
Scholars, academicians, distinguished invitees,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- It is always a privilege to visit Uzbekistan; it is always a pleasure to be in Samarkand, a great fountainhead of civilisation, and a source of culture and knowledge whose reach has spread as much as contemporary challenges, in concentric circles to embrace the east, west, south and north across the recorded centuries. It is this inheritance, that has brought us together for the Fifth India-Central Asia Dialogue.
- We are fortunate that both this legacy and the potential for the future are under the wise care of HE President Shavkat Mirziyoyev; and we thank him for his personal support for this mission. He has already left his mark on history through his transformative vision. At his initiative, the first consultative meeting of Central Asian Heads of State was held in March 2018, which President Nazarbayev was gracious enough to host. The second is scheduled for March 2019 in Tashkent. The field was always fertile, but someone had to plant the seed. We, from India, are eagerly awaiting his visit to our country soon.
- The values we share are common knowledge. European colonisation blocked the innumerable bridges of discourse, trade, faiths, culture and humanism between us. But barriers erected in the 19th and 20th centuries are crumbling, visibly, before the surging waves of 21st century effort and optimism. We were defeated, not because Europe was strong but because we became weak. Today we have rediscovered the force of our principles. In our vision, the world is not a construct of big powers and small nations; our Asia, and our world, is a family of sovereign, independent and equal states. We seek to pool our capacities for shared prosperity. For us, prosperity is not merely the privilege of a limited elite; prosperity is the right of every citizen. Prosperity that is not shared will not survive.
- Our vision is the great enabler. It helps us circumvent the interruptions of colonial geography, and rebuild partnerships that once made the confluence of south and Central Asia into the magnetic centre of the known world. It is not an accident that those who once played the great game, along with some new arrivals, still believe that there are rewards in the shifting tides of dominance. Our message is clear. We do not believe in theories of aggression like the "balance of power”. We believe in the power of balance. The only operation that guides us is cooperation.
- This spirit has become an axle on the wheel of a new destiny. Central Asia’s republics are working together, on energy, water and financial resources; meeting frequently to resolve border demarcation and connectivity issues; reducing friction to build a peaceful, stable region that seeks unity of purpose through a commitment to pluralism. I offer only one, but powerful example: The Aral sea, which became an environmental disaster because of vested interests, is now once again becoming a reservoir of hope.
- We do not have to look far to see the degeneration that can diminish hope, destroy promise: Afghanistan is next door. A beautiful land has been whipped toward desolation by the scourge of terrorism, distortion of faith, and the manipulation of ideological warmongers who turned a garden into a killing field. Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Taliban did not arise from Afghan impulses; they were imposed from sanctuaries outside Afghanistan. We must applaud the wisdom, determination and clarity of Central Asia’s many leaders, who understood, fought and stopped this evil menace of terrorism from destroying their society and nations. They understood, as India does, that there is no ‘good’ terrorism; and there can be no justification for this evil. They understood, like India, that terrorism is also a poisonous creature which destroys the hand that feeds it. Nothing constitutes a greater betrayal of the doctrine, message and philosophy of Islam than the false conjunction between Islam and such barbaric, suicidal violence.
- It is rational for India and Central Asia, faced with a similar threat, to work towards a comprehensive security cooperation mechanism. We already have training and joint exercises but the challenge demands that we raise our security partnership. India is ready, and keen, to cooperate with all Central Asian nations to train defence forces for both conventional and asymmetric warfare. We are also ready to send a common message to the world through cooperation with your forces in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations deployment. For the first time, a company size force from Kazakhstan will be deployed with an Indian battalion in Lebanon, from October this year. This marks the onset of a new era. We have also, with Kyrgyzstan, been preparing a field hospital that will be placed at the service of the UN. We would like to offer similar assistance to all countries in this region. India is ready and able to take defence and security cooperation to a higher level by facilitating capacity building programmes for the defence framework, and by encouraging the private sector to set up defence production and manufacturing plants in Central Asia.
- Our economic bonds need far more depth and breadth. We must initiate pro-active steps to upgrade ventures and expand their diversity. India seeks to strengthen ties in IT, pharmaceuticals, medical care, education, science and technology, private sector entrepreneurship, Human Resource development, tourism, culture, arts, sports and innovation. As you can see, the list is long; the scope is wider than ever before. India is working to open Centres of Excellence in IT, medicine, knowledge-sharing and specialised capacity building with a focus on the young.
- With our renewed emphasis on regional connectivity, continued focus on strong efforts to expand economic and diplomatic engagement, our Central Asia policy is a key priority for India. The single biggest obstacle to closer integration with Central Asia is the absence of direct connectivity to the region. India has registered significant progress in concluding a trilateral agreement for renovation of Chabahar Port, development of the International North-South Transport Corridor and becoming a member of Ashgabat Agreement. India will facilitate development of multi modal transport and transit routes, effectively linking markets of Central Asia to South Asia, South East Asia and Europe. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly reaffirmed his determination to expand our historic and continuing ties with Central Asia.
- India is willing to partner with Central Asia in its efforts towards ensuring food security. Developing high-yielding and better quality seeds, cotton and potato cultivation, expertise in green house cultivation of vegetables, fruits and flowers, new technology for drip irrigation, agricultural implements and storage technologies, are among other fields that hold great potential for collaboration.
- India would like to partner with Central Asian countries in space cooperation in multitude of applications in the area for weather forecasting, natural resource management, infrastructure planning, ecosystems, environment and disaster management. Space technology inputs could be effectively used in agriculture for production forecasting and cultivation of crops. We should work together on building a satellite for Central Asia and offering launch services for such satellite.
- We can share best practices towards building capacities through training as well as cooperating on industry and R&D for mutual benefit. Our efforts are making considerable progress. I am confident that India’s partnership will contribute to a more stable and peaceful environment, spur greater economic development and establish India’s role as a factor for economic growth and strategic stability in the region.
- Our shared past impels us towards a harmonious future. This must be our promise to the young, and our commitment to those who sacrificed so much to win sovereignty and protect their freedom from the mania of violent radicalism. Our ideas and policy initiatives must converge to match each others’ aspirations. We are clear and determined; we want to work closely with Central Asia on all issues of mutual interest, both bilaterally and within the framework of multilateral forums such as UN, SCO et al. This is the key to a common dream of peace and prosperity. We know that prosperity is not possible without peace.
- I thank you for being together at this dialogue. We came, as always, with open minds, clean hearts, and the compelling vision of a shared destiny. This has given our dialogue unique strength. I thank and congratulate CRIS and ICWA for their critical role in making this edition a wonderful success - the foundations of our shared future have become more secure in Samarkand, a city that has a triumphant chapter in History. Both our ancestors and our children must be happier today.