Uzbekistan a Key Cog in the Wheel for India’s Central Asia Policy

India and Uzbekistan relations date back to USSR times and both nations share stable and positive ties. Uzbekistan has a large section of Hindi speaking population who deeply follow the Indian culture. This has led to the strengthening of bilateral relations between India and Uzbekistan. Now, India is keen to enhance ties with Central Asian nations, especially Uzbekistan. A EurAsian Times analysis.

India, China Relations Accelerated With Strong People-to-People, Cultural and Business Ties

India-Uzbekistan Relations

India and Uzbekistan have signed agreements in the field of trade, investment, education, civil aviation, tourism, science and technology, telecommunications, agriculture, and information technology. In 2018, PM Modi gave approval to the Memorandum of Understanding between India and Uzbekistan on cooperation in the sphere of Law and Justice. This MoU is expected to boost cooperation between the two countries in the field of Law as it is focused on enhancing the legal capacities of Government functionaries.

The current government under the leadership of Modi is working on dialogue to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries. The Indian government is keen to share knowledge in the field of law and policy with other countries. Both countries closely cooperate in combating international terrorism, religious extremism, and organized crime, drug trafficking, and other global challenges.

Both India and Uzbekistan support each other’s initiative within the framework of the United Nation. Uzbekistan fully supports permanent membership of India in the UN Security Council and cooperates it in addressing the Afghanistan crisis.

Uzbekistan is keen to expand the volume of trade and investment relations between the two countries. India and Uzbekistan are planning to work together in the field of information technology, automobile industry, chemical, banking, and light industry. Uzbekistan has already extended cooperation in the development of small and medium Indian businesses like gems, hotel, and restaurant business. On the other hand, India is providing technical assistance through ITEC programme to automobile manufacturers in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan – Land Locked Like Afghanistan

Uzbekistan is a land-locked country and unfortunately, its immediate neighbours are also land-locked. The biggest advantage of Uzbekistan is its central location. Any country who wish to connect with central Asia needs access via Uzbekistan.

India and Kazakhstan are founding members of the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC). The role of Uzbekistan cannot be neglected if India wants to reach Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan is not part of INST but is part of Ashgabat agreement that will provide a link between central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Uzbekistan’s cheap gas prices make it an attractive destination for investment in the field of petrochemicals sector. India is working to improve connectivity between the two countries through INST route. Recently, Uzbek Trade Minister showed interest in export of moong dal from Uzbekistan to India. Uzbekistan also produces cotton but most of it is exported as raw cotton. India is the hub of textile and apparel sectors and sees Uzbekistan as the best place to invest. The pharmaceutical sector is another area for Indian investment.

Now, Uzbekistan is working on exporting Uzbek goods to the Indian market. They want to directly supply their agricultural products to the Indian market. Hence, Uzbekistan is looking forward to an agreement with the Indian government on preferential trade regime to boost agricultural products export. This might include trade relaxation for agricultural products from Uzbekistan in the Indian market.

Uzbekistan and India are also part of Transport Internationaux Routiers or International Road Transport Convention (TIR) which is a multilateral treaty to administer over-land movement of goods across international borders. There is a low volume of India-Uzbek trade due to lack of connectivity. Uzbekistan trade with China constitutes around USD 4.2 billion. In 2018, India and Uzbekistan set an annual bilateral trade target of $1 billion to be achieved within two years.

India gained full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2016. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is fighting against extremism and terrorism. This has further intensified India and Uzbekistan relationship. Uzbekistan is already a member of SCO.

Uzbekistan is a friendly nation that encourages foreign investment and has also set up Free Trade Zones. It has adopted the UN General Assembly resolution which says about strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability, and sustainable development in the Central Asian region. India realises the importance of Uzbekistan and is willing to explore the possibilities of defence cooperation and training.

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