Secretary (West) (Shri Navtej Sarna): This is the first day of Prime Minister Modi’s tour of Central Asia during which he will be visiting all the five Central Asian republics. He landed in Tashkent, Uzbekistan today. He is here for barely 24 hours. He leaves tomorrow afternoon for Kazakhstan.
It has been a packed day today. Immediately on arrival he was received by the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, and the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan is going to be accompanying him for the entire duration of this visit. He has had almost a 90-minute restricted meeting with President Karimov. Thereafter the two leaders have met in a delegation-level format.
Three agreements on cooperation between the Foreign Ministries, on cooperation in culture, cooperation in tourism have been signed. Tomorrow morning the Prime Minister has other events including a very large meeting with Indology experts. Tashkent is one of the centres of Indology.
Today’s meetings covered the entire gamut of important issues. What was really striking was that the two leaders struck an immediate personal rapport and had a very warm and focused conversation. 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 including in political cooperation, in cooperation in counterterrorism, in defence cooperation, in cyber cooperation and in trade and economic terms.
They discussed at length the challenges in increasing trade and investment which is lack of surface connectivity. In this context the Prime Minister raised the issue of Uzbekistan joining the International North-South Trade Corridor as well as India joining the Ashgabat Agreement. These suggestions were actively and positively taken by the other side and conversations on this will continue.
They also discussed regional issues, particularly the issues related to terrorism, the issues related to the situation in post 2014 Afghanistan, and ways and means to cooperate. We have a Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism and there was a decision that this should be reinvigorated.
In defence cooperation there has been a proposal from India that the Joint Working Group should be set up and this was positively responded to. So this is another conversation which will continue. These are the broad issues that we discussed.
Also, the forthcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation came up, and Prime Minister appreciated Uzbekistan’s support in moving forward the process which makes India a member of the SCO. And President Karimov welcomed this development and spoke about the contribution that India could make in the SCO in the coming years.
There has also been a Joint Statement that has been agreed to between the two sides and I am sure you will find the details on the web. The Joint Statement covers a number of issues in political engagement and economic engagement as well as deepening the strategic engagement between India and Uzbekistan and in fact India and this entire region.
The Joint Statement also confirms Uzbekistan’s support for India’s permanent candidature to the UN Security Council.