Uzbekistan offers space for defence unit, echoes India’s stand on Afghan peace

To counter the gathering Chinese influence among Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan has broken ranks by offering India a chance to set up a defence manufacturing unit in the country, enabling India to extent its strategic reach.

The proposal, still in its early stages, was one the issues discussed in a high level meeting between Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar and the Uzbek Defence minister at Tashkent about expanding defence partnerships. Akbar is on a 4 day visit to Uzbekistan.

Heavy reliance on Russian technology based defence equipment is bringing the two countries together in the defence manufacturing sector.

Officials travelling with the Indian minister revealed to Economic Times that India had plans to export defence equipment to Uzbekistan.

Other countries that India targets for defence exports are South Asian, SE Asian and West Asian countries.

India and Uzbekistan are also looking to firm up an exchange and training of military personnel partnership.

On Monday, the two countries at an international meet in Tashkent declared for an ‘Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process,’ something that India has been saying for a long time.

“…We recognise that a political settlement that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, supported by close regional counterterrorism and counter-narcotics cooperation, and regional economic cooperation and connectivity are key to the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan and the entire region,” the Declaration at the end of the two-day meet stated categorically.

The Tashkent Declaration called upon “all countries to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and non-interference in its internal affairs in order to achieve its security, stability and prosperity”.

Speaking at the meet Uzbekistan president Shavkat Miriyoyev said that the fight against terrorism was a common challenge for the region.

MJ Akbar, MOS External Affairs told the conference, “We in India are profoundly troubled by the continuing suffering of our Afghan brethren.”

Afghanistan is a victim of ideological extremism and brutal terrorism, often sponsored from beyond their borders, for reasons that they do not always understand, by elements trapped in regressive doctrine and cynical interests,” said Akbar.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani asked regional countries to support Afghanistan’s peace initiatives as terrorists know no geographical boundaries.

The Tashkent Declaration also did condemn terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan as an organiser of the meet was offered to play peacenik between the Ghani administration and the Taliban on Afghanistan’s future.