Uzbekistan wants to use Chabahar port to access the Indian market, Furkat Sidikov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan has said.
Speaking at an interactive session organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Sidikov said "it is time to enhance trade and business operations, especially between the private sectors of both nations."
The Chabahar port in Iran has been at the centre of India's plans to shore up trade with Central Asian markets such as Uzbekistan but has seen several roadblocks.
India, Uzbekistan, Iran, and Afghanistan were set to meet in late-2021 to paper over the issues that have cropped up over the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which originates from the Chabahar port. However, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has scuttled that plan.
The 7,200-km long INSTC is India's grand plan to cut short the time it takes for trade shipments to reach Europe and enter the central Asian markets, and vice versa. It incorporates thousands of kilometres of all-weather highways from the city of Chabahar in the south, through Azerbaijan in the north, and onwards to Russia and Europe.
The estimated capacity of the corridor is 20-30 million tonnes of goods annually, and Indian exports get a significant competitive advantage due to lower costs and shorter delivery time.
On Wednesday, Sidikov spoke to Indian investors on potential sectors of cooperation between India and Uzbekistan. These include pharmaceuticals, IT, healthcare, processing storage of agriculture products, and cotton. "We believe that our economy could complement each other, not compete", he said.
Speaking at the event, Uzbek Ambassador to India Dilshod Akhatov said the strengthening of a long-term strategic partnership with India remains one of the key priorities and a core focus in the foreign policy of Uzbekistan.
"Now, bilateral relations encompass a wider canvas, including political and military issues, trade and investment, and people-to-people ties", he said. He added that 2022 marks the 30 years of diplomatic relations between India and Uzbekistan.
Showcasing opportunities for investments by Indian businesses, the Ambassador highlighted that the country is the largest and the fastest-growing market in Central Asia. Uzbekistan has also recently stressed that it enjoys socio-political, macro-economic, and financial stability, in a region that often lacks these.
The ambassador said about 350 Indian enterprises are operating across various sectors in Uzbekistan, of which 220 enterprises 'are of 100 percent Indian capital'.
The annual trade turnover between Uzbekistan and India stood at only $315 million as of 2021-22. But both nations have resolved to increase the bilateral trade to at least $1 billion over the next two years.
India’s major exports are pharmaceutical products, mechanical equipment, vehicle parts, services, optical instruments, and equipment. Imports consisted largely of fruit and vegetable products, services, fertilizers, juice products and extracts, and industrial lubricants.In recent years, there has been a significant intensification in bilateral ties, mainly due to the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2015 and June 2016 to Tashkent. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev also visited India in October 2018 and in January 2019.