It gives me great pleasure to welcome Amb. Daniyar Kurbanov; Amb. Manish Prabhat; Amb. Dilshod Akhatov, Moderators of the three sessions of the Dialogue – Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Dr. Umid Abidhajaev and Amb. Skand Tayal. I also warmly welcome all participants at the third edition of the India-Uzbekistan Think Tanks Forum 2022. We thank Ambassador Daniyar Kurbanov for working closely with ICWA which has enabled the holding of the dialogue.
2. India-Uzbekistan Think Tanks Forum is evolving as an effective mechanism for bilateral academic engagement between our two countries. It has been meeting regularly even during pandemic times. The last Forum was held in February 2021 and we are now holding the annual meeting of 2022, again virtually, as Covid pandemic persists.
3. Today’s meeting is taking place when India’s relations with the Central Asian region countries has reached the milestone of 30 years of diplomatic relations. There has been good progress in our ties; and Central Asian region itself has seen growth and development over these years.
4. The impetus to India-Uzbekistan relationship is provided by our leadership and their regular interactions at the bilateral and multilateral levels. The two countries are strategic partners since 2011 and in recent years the relations have moved from strength to strength. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Uzbekistan in 2015 and 2016, and President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s visits to India in 2018 and 2019 have accelerated the engagement.
5. Uzbekistan held its Presidential elections in October 2021, to which experts from India, including from ICWA, were invited as International Observers. Some of them are participating in today’s programme. Prime Minister Modi while congratulating President Mirziyoyev on his re-election stated that he was confident that India-Uzbekistan strategic partnership will continue to strengthen. Our ties with Uzbekistan are an important element in India’s strategic continental mindset.
6. We are, however, in the midst of unexpected developments in our neighbourhood, which makes our regular consultations important for enhanced mutual understanding and trust. The developments in Afghanistan since August last year, and the lack of any tangible constructive development there have been a cause of anxiety not only among Afghans, but also among the people of Central Asia and India. Instability and insecurity in our common bridging space, is a cause of great concern for both of us. We are also observing the turn of events in Kazakhstan.
7. India is providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. We are facing connectivity challenges. Uzbekistan’s role being a neighbour of Afghanistan becomes important and India-Uzbekistan combined efforts in this regard could be useful.
8. Terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking continue to impact regional peace and security. Security of cyber space is becoming much more important with the increasing use of technology. We must enhance our cooperation to deal with all challenges facing us.
9. We all understand the benefits of our political, cultural and economic cooperation. The complementarities in our capabilities need to be fully explored for mutual advantage. India is a large economy and a vast market for our Central Asian partners. We look towards Central Asian Republics as friendly nations and want to re-connect the two peoples.
10. India and Uzbekistan are both undertaking concerted measures enhance connectivity in the region through various initiatives and mechanisms, including the Trilateral Working Group of India, Uzbekistan and Iran on the joint use of Chabahar Port; the INSTC; and the Agreement on Establishment of an International Transport and Transit Corridor known as Ashgabat Agreement, which India joined in 2018.
11. Further, our cooperation can play a significant role in regional multilateral diplomacy. Uzbekistan is the current chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and India is the next chair of the Organization. The two countries can cooperate to harness the potential of this Organization.
12. This Forum provides us with an opportunity to exchange views on developments in respective regions. We are looking forward to listening to the perspectives from Uzbekistan about the current developments in the region and beyond.
I thank you all and wish the Forum a great success.