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PM Modi holds talks with Uzbek Prez; discusses terror, Afghanistan

Last updated on: July 06, 2015 23:53 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the joint press statement at Kuksaroy Complex in Tashkent while the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov hears intently. Photograph: PIB

Terrorism and Afghanistan were the focus points of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with Uzbek President Islam Karimov on his first visit to Central Asia.   

After the talks between Modi, who arrived Tashkent in the Uzbek capital on the first leg of his eight-day visit to Central Asia and Russia, and Karimov, the two countries inked three pacts to boost cooperation between their foreign offices and in the field of culture and tourism.

During the talks, Modi and Karimov discussed ways to enhance strategic, economic and energy ties apart from reviewing key regional issues including the situation in war-torn Afghanistan.

Addressing a joint press event with Karimov, Modi said, "I have begun my journey in Uzbekistan underlining its importance for India, not just in this region, but also in Asia. President Karimov and I discussed various initiatives to further enhance connectivity between India and Uzbekistan."

On their discussions on regional and international issues, including the situation in Afghanistan, Modi said, "We also have shared concerns on the rising threat of extremism and terrorism in our extended neighbourhood.

"We agreed to intensify security cooperation and exchanges. The bilateral Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism will meet later this year. We also agreed to strengthen cooperation in defence and cyber security."

He said his discussions with President Karimov were "very productive" and aimed towards further deepening of ties.

Noting that the two countries have built a strategic partnership, Modi said, "This includes expanding economic cooperation, combating terrorism, advancing stability in the region and promoting regional integration."

The two leaders also discussed ways to implement the contract for supply of uranium from mineral-rich Uzbekistan signed last year. The pact was signed for supply of 2,000 metric tonnes of the yellow cake.

They also explored various initiatives to further enhance connectivity between the two countries and in this context, Modi briefed Karimov about the International North South Transport Corridor and proposed that Uzbekistan consider becoming a member. The Prime Minister also sought Uzbek President's support for India joining the Ashgabat Agreement.

The International North–South Transport Corridor is a ship, rail and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia while the Ashgabat Agreement is a transit pact established in 2011 between Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Oman.

On ways to raise economic engagement between the two countries, Modi said,"I conveyed to him that there is a strong interest in Indian business to invest in Uzbekistan. There is immense potential in a broad range of areas in Uzbekistan.

"I have urged him to make the process and the policies for Indian investments here (Uzbekistan) smoother. President responded positively to my suggestion."

Modi said President Karimov was also supportive of strengthening ongoing cooperation in the areas of agriculture, information technology and energy.

Noting that the pacts inked on Monday in the field of culture and tourism will bring people of the two countries closer, Modi said, "Few countries can match Uzbekistan in nurturing Hindi and Indian culture. Tomorrow, I look forward to meeting a vibrant group of Indologists and Hindi linguists."

Ahead of his talks, Modi presented President Karimov with a specially commissioned reproduction of 'Khamsa-i- Khusrau' by the great 13th century sufi poet Amir Khusrau who was born in Uttar Pradesh and whose father hailed from Uzbekistan.

Written in Persian and profusely decorated and illuminated with various colours, the work is a part of the manuscripts collection of National Museum, Delhi.

"This has been a very rewarding visit. It has sown the seeds of a rich harvest in the years ahead," he said.

President Karimov and Prime Minister Modi reached understanding on a wide range of issues to further deepen Uzbekistan-India strategic relations, mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in various fields, as well as international and regional issues of mutual interest, a joint statement issued later said.

The two sides reaffirmed their interest in expanding and further strengthening long-term bilateral cooperation covering diverse sectors such as political ties, security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, science and technology as well as cultural linkages.

President Karimov noted that strengthening relations with India is one of the top foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan while Prime Minister Modi emphasised that a strong strategic partnership between India and Uzbekistan is a key pillar of India's engagement with Central Asia.

"The sides agreed to maintain regular bilateral consultations and political dialogue through exchange of official visits at the leadership and other levels to promote mutual understanding on bilateral as well as regional and international issues," the joint statement said.

Noting the importance of adequate and timely responses to threats and challenges to national as well as regional security, the two sides expressed their intention to strengthen coordination between the law enforcement agencies and special services, including under the framework of the Uzbekistan-India Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.

They also agreed to expand cooperation in the fields of defence and cyber-security.

The two countries noted the importance of promoting long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships among their business communities, companies and enterprises.

The two sides also called for further promotion of investment cooperation between the two countries. They called for partnership in creating favourable conditions for investment by Indian companies in Uzbekistan, including in the framework of the Special Economic Zones "Navoi", "Angren" and "Jizzakh".

They noted prospects for joint investment projects in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, light industry, IT and communications.

During the delegation-level talks, the two countries also agreed to explore various options to enhance surface connectivity between them.

The two sides recognised tourism as an important area of bilateral cooperation and agreed to implement practical measures under the framework of the bilateral agreement on cooperation in tourism signed during the visit.

"The sides discussed the situation in Afghanistan and noted that establishment of peace in that country is of great significance to the security and stability of the entire region. They expressed support for a genuine Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process for peaceful reconstruction and revival of the country," the statement said.

India and Uzbekistan reaffirmed that the United Nations must play a central role in maintaining global peace and security, assisting common development and advancing international cooperation, it said.

The two countries called for comprehensive reforms of the UN structures, first of all, its Security Council, including expansion in both categories of membership. Uzbekistan reaffirmed its support to India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, the statement said.

Modi invited Karimov to pay a visit to India at his convenience. The dates of the visit shall be agreed through diplomatic channels.

Modi is here on his first-leg of six nation visit including Russia where he will be attending Summits of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

From Uzbekistan, Modi will go to Kazakhstan tomorrow. He will then travel to Russia on July 8, before flying to Turkmenistan on July 10, Kyrgyzstan on July 11 and Tajikistan on July 12.

Later at a banquet hosted in his honour by the Uzbek President, the prime minister said the cooperation between the two countries can counter extremism and terrorism -- a threat to security and stability in the region.

Modi said closer ties between India and Central Asia will boost prosperity.

"Closer ties between a nation of 1.25 billion experiencing rapid economic growth and Central Asia will boost prosperity in our nations, contribute to Asia's resurgence and reconnect Eurasia. We also seek your partnership to connect more closely with Central Asia," Modi said.

He said India deeply values Uzbekistan's support at international forums, including the United Nations.

"It is time for India and Uzbekistan to move boldly to seize their opportunities," Modi said.

Modi thanked the Uzbek leadership for building a permanent monument in memory of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who died here in 1966.

"My visit also speaks of Uzbekistan's leadership in the region. Excellency, dawn of independence is also the moment of greatest challenge for a nation.

"You have led your country at freedom. You have built a modern, inclusive and stable nation that is now among the fastest growing economies in Asia and beyond. And, you are striving for your region's progress with great vision," he said.

Recalling the Uzbek President's visit to India within months of Uzbekistan's independence, he said, "it tells us that bonds of human hearts do not fade due the barriers of history and politics. Your five visits to India reflect the strength of your commitment to our partnership."

He said the "timeless links" between India and Central Asia were formed on the territory of Uzbekistan. "It holds a special place in the hearts of Indians."

"The radio broadcast in Hindi has completed 50 years in Uzbekistan and Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata have been telecast here more than once. It is as much a reflection of our enduring links as it is of Uzbekistan's openness to the world," he said.

He said India's spiritual heritage influenced early life in this region.

"In turn, we see your imprint in our own cities and our daily life-in devotion and celebration, in art and architecture, in our music and food, in textiles and handicraft," Modi said.

He said the strains of Sufi songs and Bhakti poems are in harmony in their eternal spiritual search.

The glory of Central Asia, the splendour of its culture, the achievements of its science, the beauty of its art and the magnificence of its architecture are woven around the great cities of Uzbekistan, he said.

A special vegetarian menu was served at the banquet for Modi. Varaka with vegetables, samsa with spinach was served as snacks. Also on the menu was broccoli cream soup, steamed rice.

They also explored various initiatives to further enhance connectivity between the two countries and in this context, Modi briefed Karimov about the International North South Transport Corridor and proposed that Uzbekistan consider becoming a member. 

The International North-South Transport Corridor is a ship, rail and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.

Noting that the two countries have built a strategic partnership, Modi said, "This includes expanding economic cooperation, combating terrorism, advancing stability in the region and promoting regional integration."

"We also discussed regional and international issues, including the situation in Afghanistan. We also have shared concerns on the rising threat of extremism and terrorism in our extended neighbourhood," the prime minister said.

The two leaders agreed to intensify cooperation in key areas of defence and cyber security. In this regard, the bilateral joint working group on counter terrorism will meet later this year.

Modi and Karimov also discussed steps needed to implement the contract for supply of uranium from mineral-rich Uzbekistan signed last year. The pact was signed for supply of 2,000 metric tonnes of the yellow cake.

On ways to raise economic engagement between the two countries, Modi said, "I conveyed to him that there is a strong interest in Indian business to invest in Uzbekistan. There is immense potential in a broad range of areas in Uzbekistan.

"I have urged him to make the process and the policies for Indian investments here smoother. The president responded positively to my suggestion."

Modi noted that President Karimov was also supportive of strengthening the ongoing cooperation in the areas of agriculture, information technology and energy.

The two leaders discussed various initiatives to further enhance connectivity between the two countries and in this context. Modi also sought Uzbek president's support for India joining the Ashgabat Agreement. The pact is a transit agreement established in 2011 between Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Oman.        

Noting that the pacts inked on Monday in the field of culture and tourism will bring people of the two countries closer, Modi said, "Few countries can match Uzbekistan in nurturing Hindi and Indian culture. Tomorrow (Tuesday), I look forward to meeting a vibrant group of Indologists and Hindi linguists."

Modi also presented President Karimov with a specially commissioned reproduction of 'Khamsa-i-Khusrau' by the great 13th century sufi poet Amir Khusrau who was born in Uttar Pradesh and whose father hailed from Uzbekistan.

Written in Persian and profusely decorated and illuminated with various colours, the work is a part of the manuscripts collection of National Museum, Delhi.

Modi said India will expand cooperation in capacity building through increase in the number of training offers in India. "Consistent with our commitment, the Uzbekistan-India Information Technology Centre has been upgraded this year," Modi said and welcomed President Karimov's assurance to ensure speedy completion of the Entrepreneurship Development Centre being set up in Tashkent.

"Tomorrow (on Tuesday), I will be paying a visit to the Monument of Independence and Humanism and the Memorial of Late Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. We are thankful to the people of Tashkent and Uzbekistan, for preserving the legacy of our former prime minister.

"This has been a very rewarding visit. It has sown the seeds of a rich harvest in the years ahead," Modi said.

Modi is on his first-leg of six nation visit including Russia where he will be attending Summits of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

From Uzbekistan, Modi will go to Kazakhstan on Tuesday. He will then travel to Russia on July 8, before flying to Turkmenistan on July 10, Kyrgyzstan on July 11 and Tajikistan on July 12. The SCO Summit, to be held in Ufa in Russia, may see India getting the membership of the six-nation grouping comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which could be a major highlight of the visit.

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