Key words: South and Central Asia, regional connectivity, peace and regional stability, zones of influence, Uzbekistan, India, Afghanistan.
Although it has been more than a year since the change of government in Afghanistan, the political, economic/social situation in this country has not yet changed in a positive direction. The representatives from all levels of Afghan society should be widely involved in the state administration, human rights should be ensured, especially the basic freedoms of women and rights of all national/ethnic and religious groups in the country. We also call on the current government of Afghanistan to show its firm will to prevent and fight against all forms and manifestations of terrorism, to sever ties with all international terrorist organizations. Both Uzbekistan and India want Afghanistan’s integration into regional cooperation processes. But it should be underscored that without stability on the other bank of Amudarya, it is impossible to achieve security and stable development not only in Uzbekistan but in all Central Asian region. We believe that in the process of establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and India can play a very important role in both political and economic sense.
Central Asia is keen to develop a regional cooperation and stability
In our view Central Asian region in a much better position than a few years ago to take an active part in building a North-South economic corridor through Afghanistan. Today there exists a clear, expressed political will at the highest level to develop political, economic and trade cooperation among the countries of the region.
The Joint Statement of the Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asian Countries held on 29 November 2019 in Tashkent emphasized that “the tendency of regional rapprochement in Central Asia is a historically determined reality”. 
It’s an open secret that after two and a half decades of failed policies aimed at ensuring self-reliance and self-sufficiency, trade, economic and investment relations among Central Asian countries are now developing with unprecedented speed. A dynamic, open and unified Central Asian market offers much better business and investment opportunities for South-Asian partners than the smaller economies of independent countries.
For example, the joint investment in and operation of new large hydropower stations in the upstream countries of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with the participation of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with their much larger economies would boost electricity exports to Afghanistan and South-Asia through CASA 1000, while at the same time help Central Asian countries adapt to climate change by increasing their capacity to store water for low-water years.
Improving regional connectivity with South Asia
This is an important fact that this connectivity actions could become a key component of a long-term strategy of Central Asian countries to build balanced, “multi-vector” political and economic ties with all direct neighbors, China, Russia, Iran and Afghanistan, as well as important partners including the European Union, the US, Japan, South-Korea, Turkey, Pakistan and India. While some of these neighbors and partners may have disputes or competing agendas, Central Asian countries enjoy good and stable relations with all of them. Central Asia has the potential to become an active promoter of stability, security and economic, trade and cultural cooperation in its broader neighborhood.
The new cooperation frameworks
It should be noted that there are numerous regional and sub-regional organizations offering a suitable framework for developing economic cooperation and integration between Central and South Asia, among them the Eurasian Economic Union, ECO, SCO and others.
Just recently, on September 16, 2022, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi during Samarkand SCO summit said that “today, when the whole world is facing the challenges of economic recovery after the pandemic, the role of SCO becomes very important”.
The history knows well that in contrast to earlier periods of great-power politics, an encouraging sign is the strong political wish of practically all neighbouring countries and partners to see an end to interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. The period of the Great Game with its numerous “proxy conflicts” that sprung up during the last two centuries, should come to an end. Investment in infrastructure, with its long payback period, needs long term stability. Countries that are in the process of investing tens of billions of dollars in such infrastructure want to know that their investment is safe.
In our view the most immediate step should be to provide early benefits to the population of the whole region by the rapid expansion of economic and trade ties. The acceleration of large projects such as TAPI or CASA 1000 should go hand in hand with small steps that take advantage of the opening up of transport corridors between Central and South Asia. 
Most importantly there are a number of positive geopolitical and geoeconomic developments in the Eurasian space that can facilitate efforts to strengthen trade and economic ties between Central and South Asia. China, a neighbor of several Central and South Asian countries, has emerged as the economic powerhouse of the world, with a GDP of nearly USD 15 trillion (USD 25 trillion based on ppp) in 2020. India, with a GDP of over USD 3 billion in 2020 (almost USD 9 billion, based on ppp) is an attractive market and source of investment for the countries of the economic corridor.
Other interregional platforms
Lately the Belt and Road initiative of China provides massive investment in regional infrastructure. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor opens up huge opportunities for the Pakistani economy. A peaceful environment, the resolution of disputes among South-Asian countries and the transition from strategic competition to economic cooperation are sine qua non preconditions for the full development of the network of interconnected North-South and East-West corridors. The presence of the representative of the Russian Railways at the Tashkent conference signalled the interest of Russia to participate in the development of such a network, which could then be connected to transport corridors to Europe and China.
The United States of America, having withdrawn militarily from Afghanistan, remains an important economic partner and the source of investment and technology, as well as development assistance for the countries of Central and South Asia. A meeting of representative of the C5+1 countries – the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the United States of America – held on the margins of the Tashkent Conference affirmed their commitment to enhancing their engagement through this important regional diplomatic platform and seeking opportunities to strengthen connectivity between the Central and South Asian regions via trade, transport and energy links.
The C5+1 recognized that increased connectivity supports its shared goal of a prosperous and secure Central Asia. The C5+1 countries reconfirmed their commitment to strengthening the region’s security and stability, including through Afghan peace negotiations.
Tashkent is the meeting place for all
Nearly 30 nations engaged with Taliban officials in July 2022at the Tashkent International Conference “Afghanistan: Security and economic development” that aimed at strengthening the Afghan economy, policy and regional security.
Here is what Uzbek government said: the representatives from all levels of Afghan society should be widely involved in the state administration, human rights should be ensured, especially the basic rights and freedoms of women, all national and religious groups. 
The Uzbek side also calls on the current government of Afghanistan to show its firm will to prevent and fight against all forms and manifestations of terrorism, to sever ties with all international terrorist organizations.
Uzbekistan will continue to actively participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan’s economy.
The other conference attendees said too that this task should be the common priority. Because, as they say “it is through economic development that peace in Afghanistan can be strengthened”.
And now Uzbekistan wants Afghanistan’s integration into regional cooperation processes. Because if there is no peace in Afghanistan, security and stable development cannot be achieved in Uzbekistan or in the entire Central Asian region.
All Central Asian countries concern about the security and they still point to Afghanistan as a source of concern. So of course that is also an important thing to discuss.
Afghan crisis in its newest history
For over a space of millennia the Uzbek and Afghan people lived side by side with one another. We share the common cultural, spiritual and historical values, one religion and the heritage of great ancestors.
It should be underscored that without a stability on the other bank of Amudarya, it is impossible to achieve security and stable development in Uzbekistan and the entire Central Asian region.
In this regard, it cannot but arouse concern that the attention is getting reduced in the world to Afghanistan, which is facing deep socio-economic and humanitarian crisis in its newest history.
We are convinced that today the international community won’t repeat the mistakes of the 1990s, shall be able to avoid them and this goal should certainly be achieved.
The international isolation of Afghanistan shall inevitably lead to further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. Thus, it is important not to allow for this, since the point is about the fate of millions of people.
At the moment, the Interim government of Afghanistan takes the certain steps in terms of peaceful reconstruction of the country, strives to improve the socio-economic situation, establish the friendly relations with neighboring countries and the mutually beneficial cooperation with an international community. We must foster and endorse these efforts.
Meanwhile, forming a broad representation of all layers of the Afghan society in state governance, ensuring basic human rights and freedoms, especially of women and all ethnic-confessional groups remain a fundamental condition for establishing a lasting peace in Afghanistan.
We call on the current government of Afghanistan to show a firm will and take resolute measures to prevent and counteract terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations, break up the ties with all international terrorist organizations.
Such approach shall lead up to consolidation of trust to an Interim government, open up the real prospects for a stable development of Afghanistan in an atmosphere of friendship, good neighborliness and mutually beneficial cooperation with its nearest surrounding states and the international community.
The Special resolution adopted recently by the UN General Assembly on strengthening connectivity between the Central and South Asia has also confirmed the most important significance of preserving peace in Afghanistan to ensure the international security.
All of us, the entire international community, must show solidarity with the Afghan people. We should direct our efforts to creating the real prerequisites for Afghanistan to become a peaceful, stable and prosperous land – free from terrorism, wars and narcotics.
Our common priority must become a recovery of Afghanistan’s economy. It is such an approach, which is considered an important condition for achieving a solid peace in this long-suffering country. In particular, this direction includes its integration into inter-regional economic processes, implementation of the infrastructure and socially significant projects.
At the moment, Uzbekistan is making a tangible contribution to the international efforts on rendering assistance to the socio-economic and humanitarian recovery of Afghanistan, including through promotion of the large trans-regional infrastructure projects.
Uzbekistan wants peace and stability Afghanistan
Uzbekistan is interested in the development of Afghanistan as a peaceful, independent and prosperous state.
We also maintain a clear position that in the foreseeable future, Afghanistan shall remain an important factor in regional security, directly affecting the national interests of regional countries, primarily the neighboring states.
As the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev said at the Consultative Meeting of the heads of Central Asian states on July 21 2022 in Chalpan Atа, Kyrgyzstan, “Today, there are no borders for these threats – they penetrate through mobile phones. Unfortunately, the recent tragic events in Uzbekistan have once again confirmed the presence of destructive forces that are trying to disrupt our plans, sow chaos and instability in our region. In this regard, we support the proposal to launch regular consultations of the heads of the security councils and special services of the countries of the region in these areas. Our highest priority should remain to continue working closely together to promote long-term peace in Afghanistan and its socio-economic recovery,” emphasized the President of Uzbekistan .
In this regard, the development of joint approaches to solving the socio-economic problems of Afghanistan at this stage of the country’s development should become a top priority for the states of the region and the world community.
It is necessary to combine our efforts so that the long-sought peace reigns in the long-suffering land of Afghanistan and the conditions for the dynamic post-conflict development are created.
Today it is important to note that despite the lack of managerial experience, financial and economic constraints we can observe the strong desire of the Afghan authorities to improve the situation in the country, to exclude the appearance of various factors that, to one extent or another, can lead to a new wave of destabilization.
We were pleased with the willingness of the Interim Government not to impede the return to the country of political and social circles representatives who left Afghanistan after the August of 2021.
We are confident that these steps will contribute not only to the prompt achievement of national reconciliation, but also to a noticeable decrease in the intensity of the negative attitude towards the new authorities of the country.
Along with this, we believe that the prompt implementation by the Interim Government of the basic requirements of the international community, including the creation of an inclusive government based on broad representation, ensuring the rights of women and national minorities, as well as allowing the Afghan girls to receive a full-fledged school education is a guarantee of a peaceful future for all the Afghan people.
All neighboring states and international partners are concerned about the threat of an escalation of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the risk of economic situation sliding into the abyss of chaos.
It is time to move from words to actions – to help to revive the Afghan economy and to create all the necessary conditions for involving Afghanistan in the regional integration processes.
In order to deliver the humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, we have created a multifunctional transport and logistics hub in the border city of Termez, which is now being actively used by various UN bodies.
On July 18, expeditionary work began on the territory of Afghanistan with the participation of specialists from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to determine the railway route of the trans–Afghan railway “Termez-Mazar–I–Sharif – Kabul- Peshawar” and a feasibility study of the project.
In addition, Uzbek specialists have completed work on the restoration of the international airport in the city of Mazar-I-Sharif this year.
We believe it is important to continue jointly with Afghanistan to implement such infrastructure projects as the construction of the “Termez – Mazar-e-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar” railroad, the transit potential of which is 20 million tons of cargo annually and the “Surkhan – Pul-e-Khumri” power transmission line.
We invite all the participants of the conference to the presentation of the infrastructure projects on assisting the Afghanistan.
We are convinced that the implementation of these projects will not only help the reconstruction of the Afghan economy and make Afghanistan a bridge between Central and South Asia, but also promote the overall process of regional connectivity for the benefit and prosperity of the people of the vast region.
We attach an enormous importance to the training of Afghan youth at the Educational Center in Termez, established at the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan.
We are confident that this will accelerate the training of highly qualified specialists for the key sectors of the national economy of Afghanistan, who will be able to make a fair share of contribution to its economic revival.
The defrost of Afghanistan’s financial assets abroad is a major factor in rebuilding Afghanistan’s economy, addressing the acute issues of social nature currently facing the people of this friendly country, as well as implementing the significant infrastructure projects for the benefit of the whole Afghanistan.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight that only through the joint efforts we can achieve a lasting peace and national harmony in this country.
There is no other way, and the destiny of the people of Afghanistan and its peaceful, bright future will largely depend on our current coordinated actions.
India and Uzbekistan are working together to promote peace and security in the region
Relations between Uzbekistan and India have a thousand-year history. However, it cannot be said that it is developing now well in line with modern requirements.
In our view, one of the crucial areas is a security. India has been a strategic partner of Uzbekistan since 2011. 
If we look at the text of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, we can see that the security clauses and goals are clearly stated in a number of areas. In particular, the idea of combating religious extremism and terrorism is enshrined in the same strategic partnership agreement. This means that we have common interests and consistent cooperation in this area.
The two sides resolutely condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and reaffirmed that international terrorism was a threat to global peace and security.
The sides also discussed the continuing unstable situation in Afghanistan and the challenges emanating from the region, including drug trafficking, and reaffirmed the importance of early establishment of peace and stability in the country.
Of course, instability in Afghanistan, the poliferation and spread of terrorist hotbeds will only have a negative impact on cooperation with other countries through Afghanistan and can hinder the implementation of any projects, slowing down or delaying these projects.
In August 2021, the Taliban came to power for the second time and we still do not see any signs of stability.
On the contrary, the situation is getting worse; so far we cannot say that in this country, in this region, there are appropriate, guaranteed conditions for economic cooperation or the creation of transport routes.
Therefore, the current situation in Afghanistan has only a negative impact on cooperation between Uzbekistan and India. Until the situation changes in Afghanistan, until peace is fully established, cooperation with India can be carried out in some other way. But anyways the transport links, infrastructure projects are either slowing down or delayed.
Of course no investor, no entrepreneur will enter the war zone, the conflict zone. He will be cautious about investing his capital and financial shares there. Or avoid it altogether.
Because, as you know, peace for any kind of business, for any investor is the first condition. If there is peace, investments will not disappear as money or water sinks into the sand. Or do not fall into the traps of corruption. That is to say, we now need guaranteed stability and peace in Afghanistan to implement economic, transport and infrastructure projects between us.
Therefore it is very important the bilateral meetings on joint fight against terrorism are held regularly.
For example, delegation from Uzbekistan, led by Minister of Internal Affairs, Pulat Bobojonov, met the Indian delegation, led by Union Minister for Home Affairs, Amit Shah, in New Delhi in November, 2019.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed issues of mutual interest including bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation, capacity building and training for Uzbek security personnel in Indian institutions, border guarding and disaster management.
Emphasizing on India-Uzbekistan Strategic Partnership, the Ministers welcomed increased cooperation between India and Uzbekistan in the area of security cooperation.
Both sides affirmed that the visit of Prime Minister of India to Uzbekistan in 2015 and 2016 and visit by President of Uzbekistan to India in 2018 and 2019 have provided a new impetus to our relationship.
An Agreement on Security Cooperation between the Ministry of Home Affairs of India and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan was also signed by the two Ministers. The Agreement will further strengthen cooperation between India-Uzbekistan in the diverse fields including counter-terrorism, organized crime and human trafficking.
At the same time Uzbekistan and India have inked some pacts on cooperation in security ties after a meeting between the Defence ministers of the two countries.
Defence Minister of India, who was attending Council of Heads and Governments (CHGs) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as the special envoy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tashkent, held talks with his Uzbek counterpart. Following the meeting, the two sides concluded a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of Military Medicine between the armed forces of the two countries. Two sides are continuing discussions at the expert level to further enhance their exchanges in this sphere.
The defence ministers agreed that the both sides would continue to work together to further raise their level of engagement in the defence sphere in keeping with strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and India.
The direct exchanges related to training, capacity building and education between the armed forces on both the sides has also witnessed a significant upswing.
The Uzbek-India multifaceted relations are very important in establishing stability and peace in Afghanistan. In particular, participation in joint programs to prevent terrorism in the region can have a good effect. In addition, the governments and companies of Uzbekistan and India can take an active role in the implementation of new projects in the economic connection of Central Asia and South Asia. There is a great desire and opportunity for this on both sides.
Dr. Beruniy Alimov
Director, New Media Education Center NGO
- Joint Statement of the Consultative meeting of the heads of states of Central Asia. https://www.un.int/uzbekistan/news/joint-statement-consultative-meeting-heads-states-central-asia
- The Tashkent conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities” signals the beginning of a new era in the history of the region. https://isrs.uz/en/xalqaro-hamkorlik/taskentskaa-konferencia-centralnaa-i-uznaa-azia-regionalnoe-vzaimosvazannosti-vyzovy-i-vozmoznosti-kak-signal-o-nacale-novoj-ery-v-istorii-regiona
- To the Participants of the International Conference «Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development». https://dunyo.info/en/site/inner/to_the_participants_of_the_international_conference_afghanistan_security_and_economic_development-BqD
- Address by President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the fourth Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia. http://www.uzbekembassy.in/address-by-president-of-the-republic-of-uzbekistan-shavkat-mirziyoyev-at-the-fourth-consultative-meeting-of-the-heads-of-state-of-central-asia/
- Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership between India and Uzbekistan. https://mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/4964/Joint+Statement+on+Strategic+Partnership+between+India+and+Uzbekistan