Today is a historic day when we are assembled here for the First Session of the India-Central Asia Dialogue, being hosted in this beautiful and historic city of Samarkand.
I thank the Government and people of Uzbekistan for their warm and generous hospitality.
We are bound together through shared history, cultural linkages and common habits and traditions. The warmth at people to people level has few parallels.
The comfort that was evident in our informal interaction last night is usually shared by members of a family.
India enjoyed warm and cordial ties with Central Asia during the Soviet era.
The emergence of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as independent countries provide huge opportunities to build modern partnerships on these strong foundations.
We congratulate the countries of Central Asia on their great achievements during nearly thirty years of independence.
India has always been and will always be a reliable friend and partner of Central Asia. The time has come to substantially raise our level of the engagement.
The countries of Central Asia are bestowed with substantial resources – minerals, hydrocarbon, agricultural and above all, hardworking people.
India is the fastest growing large economy of the world with a market of 1.3 billion people. It is recognised as a global leader in areas such as information technology, pharmaceuticals, medical services, movie production, science & technology, space sector and in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
There is therefore, considerable complementarity between India and Central Asia. More efficient connectivity will lead to the full realisation of the growth potential of the region. We are geographically close and, in terms of air connectivity, only about three hours away.
The time has come to develop more efficient transit routes, as well as to, better utilise existing opportunities and find innovative solutions.
We, as Governments, have to play a lead role in working for direct business to business partnerships. It is important to facilitate greater awareness of business opportunities particularly in the private sector. The Government of India has been encouraging its public sector enterprises and private sector to participate in developing economic opportunities in Central Asia.
Development partnership has emerged as an important component of India’s engagement with other countries.
We are happy to look at ways of extending this partnership to Central Asia as well, where we can bring our countries closer by taking up concrete projects, inter alia, under our Lines of Credit and Buyers’ Credit, and by sharing our expertise.
In this connection, India proposes the setting up of the "India-Central Asia Development Group” at G2G level to take forward this development partnership between India and Central Asian countries. This Group may be tasked to come up with concrete proposals.
However, this G2G development partnership should also help us leverage our B2B links. We need our leading business chambers to engage with each other in a structured manner to facilitate greater understanding of our respective taxation and other business regulations and to incentivize trade, business and investment in India and Central Asia, especially in the area of SMEs.
In this context, we propose the setting up of the "India-Central Asia Business Council” formed by a leading Chamber of Commerce and Industry of each of our countries and comprising of our business communities as Members of this body. If this is acceptable, India would be happy to organise the first meeting of the "India-Central Asia Business Council” in New Delhi in the coming months.
Indian pharmaceutical products, especially generic drugs have been known for their high quality and low costs the world over. India drugs for cancer, AIDS and other life threatening diseases are available at a fraction of cost than what many pharmaceutical giants produce.
The Government of India has implemented in India a new model of supplies and sale of generic drugs in the market through pharmacies which are called ‘Amrit pharmacies’. The Amrit pharmacies sell generic drugs which are much cheaper than branded drugs and substantially save the expenses for patient, especially those patients who belong to the economically vulnerable category.
India would like to offer the model of Amrit pharmacies which could be established in the Central Asian countries for public health.
Indian medical doctors and services also enjoy wide popularity in Central Asia. We also receive many visitors from Central Asia in India for medical tourism who are looking to benefit from quality medical care available in India at economical prices.
India will be willing to sponsoring a medical mission to Central Asia for providing consultations to those who may feel the need for it.
One of the major tasks in front of us is to harness the potential of the youth in our region which is tremendously talented but requires adequate nurturing, support and training.
We believe that a conducive environment must be created to encourage our youth to find gainful employment and excel in arts, literature, science, sports and other fields.While doing so, we may also instil among them awareness and pride of our shared history.
I would like to announce that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) will organise an international conference in India on cultural links between India and Central Asia.
I am also happy to announce that the annual International Dance Festival organized by ICCR would focus on Central Asian Countries this year.
ICCR will also offer five additional slots, one each for the five Central Asian countries, for scholarship to study India’s classical dances and music in India.
Indian movies have enjoyed wide popularity in Central Asia with its popular songs and themes based on family and society. This love for Indian movies goes back to older generations. We should all work towards putting in place commercial mechanisms for film distribution in Central Asia and India so that our movies become available to each other’s peoples.
India would be ready to promote cooperation in the film sector by inviting a delegation of distributors from Central Asia to India.
Central Asian region has immensely talented sportspersons and hosting them in India will be a pleasure for us.To promote our people to people contacts, we may consider organizing a sports tournament with participation of India and all the five Central Asian countries in disciplines like football, athletics or tennis.
India is known for its programmes for capacity building and training the world over.
We are pleased to receive several candidates from Central Asia every year under our Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC).
Government of India would be happy to conduct special training courses for Central Asian countries in fields like prevention of smuggling of narcotic substances, WTO, remote sensing, high-level IT courses, filmmaking, oil and gas sector and policy planning and public administration.
We are also willing to depute two English-teachers each to the Central Asian countries.
I would like to announce an extensive, 2-week training course for 8 diplomats from each of the five Central Asian countries at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi. This program will be in addition to the regular Professional Courses for Foreign Diplomats run by the Foreign Service Institute which your diplomats have been attending on a regular basis.
Media is an important pillar in promoting people-to-people relationship. It plays an important role in shaping public opinion. India will be happy to host a media delegation from Central Asian countries, 5 from each country,on an annual basis.
I would like to specifically point out that our region is facing serious challenges posed by terrorism. India, Central Asia and Afghanistan are societies which are tolerant and plural. The ideology of hate which the terrorists would like to spread has no place in our societies. We also need to ask that who these terrorists are, who funds them, how do they find sustenance, who protects and sponsors them.
For almost two decades now, these are the people who would not let Afghanistan return to peace and normalcy. Terrorism seriously erodes all avenues of development which a country can have. No business development, no investment can take place in a country suffering from terrorism. To promote business development in our region, it will also be necessary to fight this scourge of terrorism together.
I thank you all for your participation today and look forward to hearing from you ideas on how our engagement can be further strengthened.
January 13, 2019