New Delhi, Dec 11 (PTI) India and Uzbekistan on Friday signed nine agreements to further broadbase cooperation in an array of areas even as they vowed to combat the threat of terrorism by 'destroying' terrorist safe-havens, networks and funding channels.
At a virtual summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev extensively deliberated on expanding overall bilateral ties, and agreed to step up efforts for an early conclusion of a bilateral investment treaty.
In his opening remarks, Modi said the peace process in Afghanistan must preserve the achievements of the past two decades.
'We also have a similar approach on regional security issues. We agree that the restoration of peace in Afghanistan requires a process that itself is led, owned and controlled by Afghanistan. It is also necessary to preserve the achievements of the last two decades,' he said.
In the wide-ranging talks, Modi and Mirziyoyev strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the determination of their countries to combat the menace by 'destroying' terrorist safe-havens, networks, infrastructure and funding channels, according to a joint statement.
Ways to speed up connectivity projects linking central Asia was a major focus of the summit and the Indian side welcomed a Uzbek proposal to hold a trilateral dialogue among India, Iran and Uzbekistan to promote connectivity through the Chabahar port.
Holding that the current level of bilateral trade does not reflect the true potential, the two leaders also instructed officials concerned to fast-track the conclusion of an ongoing joint feasibility study that will pave the way for commencement of negotiations on a preferential trade agreement, it said.
The agreements signed are aimed at expanding cooperation in a range of areas including new and renewable energy, digital technologies, cyber security, community development projects, and in sharing of information on movement of goods.
The statement said the Indian side confirmed the approval of USD 448 million of Line of Credit for four developmental projects in Uzbekistan in the fields of road construction, sewerage treatment and information technology. India had announced a USD 1-billion line of credit to Uzbekistan in 2018.
In his remarks, Modi also said that India wants to further intensify its development partnership with Uzbekistan and expressed happiness that many projects are being considered in that country under the Indian Line of Credit.
He referred to cooperation between the two countries in key areas of defence, space and atomic energy sectors.
'Our security partnership is becoming a strong pillar of bilateral relations. Last year, the first joint military exercise between our armed forces took place. Our joint efforts are also increasing in the areas of space and atomic energy,' he said.
Modi also said India was ready to share its expertise and experience with Uzbekistan as per its development priorities.
'India has great potential in areas such as infrastructure, IT, education, health, training and capacity building, which can be useful for Uzbekistan. The establishment of a joint working group on agriculture among us is an important and positive step,' he said.
Uzbekistan is a key country in Central Asia which India considers as its 'extended neighbourhood'.
'The leaders agreed that both sides should work towards an early conclusion of Bilateral Investment Treaty which shall facilitate investment promotion and protection for further improvement of trade and economic cooperation,' the statement said.
Highlighting the importance of connectivity projects to boost trade, the Indian side said the Chabahar post could be a fulcrum of connectivity to Central Asia. It also requested Uzbekistan to consider joining the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). At a media briefing, Joint Secretary (Eurasia) in the MEA Adarsh Swaika said the Uzbek side has agreed in principle to join the INSTC. It is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
On confronting the threat of terrorism, the two sides underlined the need for every country to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries. Both sides called for an early finalisation of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
The joint statement said the two sides called for comprehensive reform of the UN structures including the UN Security Council with expansion in both categories of membership.
Uzbekistan reaffirmed its support to India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and congratulated India on its election as a non-permanent member of the body for the term 2021-22.
Noting the importance of a safe and secure regional environment for development and prosperity, the two sides also agreed to cooperate in addressing threats and challenges to national as well as regional security, the statement said. PTI MPB ZMN