External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Saturday left for a two-day visit to Uzbekistan to attend the first India-Central Asia Dialogue which is expected to focus on a plethora of regional issues including enhancing connectivity to war-ravaged Afghanistan. The Dialogue, being held in Samarkand, will be co-chaired by Swaraj and Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan will also participate in the dialogue as a special invitee for the session dedicated to connectivity issues in the region, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said. Foreign ministers of Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan will also participate in the dialogue.
“Building upon shared history & culture. EAM @SushmaSwaraj emplanes for Samarkand to participate at 1st India-Central Asia Dialogue. EAM will co-chair Dialogue with Uzbek Foreign Minister Kamilov. Foreign Ministers from other Central Asian countries and Afghanistan will attend,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted minutes before Swaraj left for Uzbekistan.
Bound together by shared history and cultural linkages, India and the Central Asian states look forward to the Dialogue as an important initiative to enhance their cooperation in wide-ranging spheres including exploring ways to substantially enhance India’s economic involvement in business and development sector of Central Asia, the MEA had said on Wednesday.
With Afghanistan joining, the participants of the Dialogue will also deliberate on developing viable connectivity options between India and Afghanistan and Central Asia to further facilitate trade and economic activity in the region, it said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited five Central Asian countries in 2015 with an aim to deepen India’s engagement with the hydrocarbon-rich region. Swaraj visited the region last August.
Officials said the India-Central Asia Dialogue, with the participation of Afghanistan, is expected to take India’s engagement with all the countries of the region to a new level.