Uzbek President Visits India; Pakistan, Afghanistan Hot Topics For Discussion?

Delhi is hosting the President Mirziyoyev to cement India-Uzbekistan bilateral relations which could immensely benefit New Delhi in the central Asian region. Indian PM Narendra Modi met Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Qingdao during the SCO summit. But how is Uzbekistan playing an important role to enhance India-Pakistan-Afghanistan relations?

India-Uzbekistan Relations

India-Uzbekistan relations have never been very strong. So far, India’s diplomatic prowess served to check the countervailing forces in the Central Asian Region, including Pakistan’s policy of building strong influence in the region, along with Afghanistan.

But what should worry Uzbekistan is that its trade with India is a trivial $323 million. In fact, India’s current trade figure of about $100 billion with the SCO is grotesquely asymmetric – about $90 billion with China, $8 billion with Russia and only $1.5 billion with the Central Asian states, of which $1 billion is with Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan is a distant second. 

India – Uzbekistan: From Nowhere to Somewhere

Former President Karimov had earlier agreed on exploration acreages to Indian organizations in Uzbekistan’s energy and mineral sector, including production sharing agreements between ONGC Videsh and Uzbekneftegaz. The exploration status is still unknown, even after 13 years.

To deepen the partnership with India, Uzbekistan has been promising to supply 2,000 metric tonnes of nuclear fuel uranium to India since 2014, but the status is again unknown.

In 2017, President Mirziyoyev assured Indian PM Modi to elevate bilateral relations and offered various incentives. A good thing is that the political outlook in Central Asia in the post-Karimov era is changing in favour of intra-regional cooperation.

President Mirziyoyev’s high points of accomplishment include the holding of a high-level meeting on Afghanistan to draft a plan for the Afghan settlement through engagement with the Taliban and holding the first regional summit of Central Asian leaders in Astana to resolve all regional issues.

It appears that President Mirziyoyev’s visit to India may be linked to his Afghan settlement agenda. Critics believe that he could also be on a mission to enhance relations between India and Pakistan under fresh regional diplomacy being stepped up in the aftermath of the post-SCO summit.

Indian experts affirm that the Uzbeks need to be extremely cautious with the Taliban, as it may also boost the morale of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which may endanger Uzbekistan itself. Besides, the Uyghur movement has been flaring up in Xinjiang, which could open up the next battleground of the Islamic movement which could swamp other Central Asian nations as well.

India critics believe that PM Modi needs to cautious that any thoughts of making the SCO a pivot for enhanced India-Pakistan relations and the Uzbeks should be reminded how even the famous 1966 Tashkent Declaration failed miserably.

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