Uzbekistan on board for India-Iran connectivity initiative

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12

In a rare quicksilver move in diplomacy, India, Iran and Uzbekistan will hold trilateral meeting on the joint use of Chabahar port on December 14, three days after it was proposed by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during a virtual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The move will increase the use of Chabahar Port in Iran to step up its trade and economic engagement with Central Asia bypassing Pakistan. Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous nation and has ample reserves of uranium, gold, coal and oil. Some of these natural resources could be evacuated from Chabahar to parts of world not easily accessible to this double landlocked country.

“This would open up economic opportunities for the traders and business community of the region. Besides Uzbekistan, other Central Asian countries have also shown interest in using the port. India seeks to cooperate closely with regional countries on this issue,” said a MEA statement.

In an indication of the importance assigned to the first ‘Trilateral Working Group Meeting’, the co-chairs will be at the Deputy Minister level from Iran and Uzbekistan, and Secretary-level from India.

India is involved in the development of the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar in cooperation with Iran to open up sea-land connectivity between India and Afghanistan. The plan is to push this connectivity into Central Asia and beyond. Aware that this route provides a second access from the sea apart from Karachi, the US has given a waiver from sanctions for the development of this Iranian port.

The route, if gets patronised by Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, will render insignificant Pakistan’s blocking of connectivity initiatives in the region, especially from India to Afghanistan and the five Central Asian nations.

India, as also the US and the European Union, have been engaging with Uzbekistan more intensively after Mirziyoyev took over in 2016 following Islam Karimov’s death after a quarter of a century as President. All three powers are using the C-5 + 1 format of interacting simultaneously with all five Central Asian countries as well as on a one-to-one basis. India made a breakthrough in strategic ties with Uzbekistan last year when it inked an agreement to import uranium to power its nuclear power plants.

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