On March 1992 India and Uzbekistan established diplomatic relations. The close friendly relations between Uzbekistan and India have their roots deep in history.
The two countries share common values such as secularisms, tolerance and strong opposition to the forces of fundamentalism and terrorism. Uzbekistan and India have been working together in the interest of peace and stability in the region and well being and prosperity of the people. The cooperation between the two friendly countries spans many areas such as economic and commercial, cultural, education and technical training in diverse disciplines, information technology, science and technology, agriculture and civil aviation etc. Having as many as 42 agreements to promote cooperation in the diverse fields.
Recently Correspondent Aloke Shekhar met with the Indian Ambassador H.E. Mr. Sharat Sabharwal in Tashkent and had a special talk.
Q. You have spent 1Ѕ years in Uzbekistan already. How are you feeling yourself here? What kind of tasks have you fulfilled as Ambassador of India in Uzbekistan?
A. Uzbekistan has high traditions of welcoming its guests. I am, therefore, overwhelmed by the warmth of the Uzbek hospitality. It has been my endeavor as Ambassador of my country to consolidate further the already existing friendly ties between Uzbekistan and India. In this task, I have received full cooperation of the Government and people of Uzbekistan.
Q. What is the reason why Indian investors are less in Uzbekistan in comparison with other foreign investors ? Is it true ?
A. Indian and Uzbek entrepreneurs have joined hands in the past in areas such as pharmaceuticals, hotels, tea packaging and garments etc. It is true that our joint ventures have not covered a number of other areas where possibilities exist. Uzbek entrepreneurs can make use of the considerable experience of the Indian industry in areas such as textiles (both cotton and silk), pharmaceuticals and hospital equipment, information technology and processing of agricultural produce, to name only a few. Indian businessmen have already shown an interest to invest in some of these areas.
Q. Could you tell us whether high level visits are due to take place from India to Uzbekistan in 2004?
A. Indo-Uzbek relations have been characterised by regular high level exchanges, including visits from both sides at the highest level. In 2003, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Higher and Secondary Specialised Education of Uzbekistan visited India and the Indian Ministers of External Affairs and Defence visited Uzbekistan. We hope to continue with this tradition of high level exchanges in future.
Q. Are there any special plans for strengthening cultural and economic relations between India and Uzbekistan in 2004?
A. Cultural ties constitute an important pillar of our bilateral relationship. There is a very active Indian cultural Centre in Tashkent which, besides working closely with many Uzbek organizations, also conducts regular classes in Indian classical dance “Kathak”, Tabla, Yoga, Hindi and Indian studies. We propose to have an Indian cultural festival in Uzbekistan later in 2004.
We have taken a number of initiatives to enhance our trade and economic relations with Uzbekistan which remain below their potential. Four major commercial delegations and several Indian businessmen have visited Uzbekistan in the last few months. The volume of our bilateral trade, that has remained in the past in the range of $30 to $40 million per annum, reached $108.6 million in 2003, very largely in favor of Uzbekistan. I am sure that it will grow further in 2004. Four Indian Chambers of commerce and industry plan to hold exhibitions of Indian products and technology in Uzbekistan over the coming year. I may add that Uzbekistan Airways operates as many as eleven flights per week from India, carrying a large number of Indian passengers to destinations in Europe and America.
Q. Last year, addressing a group of journalists you assured the forthcoming Indian film festival in Uzbekistan. Will it take place in 2004?
A. I am aware of the popularity of Indian films and music in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek music is equally admired in India. A festival of Indian films will be part of the Indian Cultural festival that we propose to organize in Uzbekistan later in 2004.
Q. Terrorism poses one of the biggest threats to the world community. Uzbekistan as well as India is suffering from this evil. How should we fight against terrorism?
A. As pointed out by you, both Uzbekistan and India have been victims of terrorism well before the tragic events of September 11, 2001 brought this issue to the forefront of international agenda. Terrorism is today among the greatest challenges to tolerant and pluralistic societies and international stability. Terrorists have brought death and misery to countless innocent persons around the globe. There can be no justification for terrorist acts. Strong international cooperation is needed to fight this menace. International obligations to combat terrorism contained in various multilateral documents need to be strictly enforced. Both Uzbekistan and India have made an important contribution to the fight against international terrorism. We have a Joint Working Group to Combat International Terrorism and its first meeting took place in Tashkent in April 2003.
Q. On March 21 Uzbekistan will observe its national festival Navroz. What will be your message to Uzbekistan on this occasion?
A. On the festive occasion of Navroz, I would like to express my very best wishes to the people of Uzbekistan for success and happiness in the coming year. I would also like to reiterate our desire to strengthen further our all round cooperation with Uzbekistan.
Q. It is no doubt that the visit of the Hon’ble Foreign Minister of India His Excellency Mr. Yashwant Sinha to Uzbekistan last year was a real success, but what concrete results did it produce?
A. As rightly pointed out by you, the visit of the Minister of External Affairs of India to Uzbekistan in November 2003 made an important contribution to the further consolidation of our relations. The visit demonstrated yet again the close identity of views of the two countries on a number of regional and international issues. It was decided to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, particularly economic and commercial, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. There was also identity of views on the need to develop new trade routes to reduce the distance between the markets of the two countries.
Q. What would you tell us about cooperation between India and Uzbekistan in telecommunications, space, computer technologies and agriculture ?
A. India is in the forefront of developing and introducing cutting edge technologies. It is one of the world leaders in Information Technology and IT enabled services and one of only three countries to have indigenously built super computers. A number of top international companies obtain their software from India and our revenue from exports of IT and related services is expected to touch $60 billion by 2008. India is one of the six countries that build and launch satellites and we plan to send a space craft to the moon in the next five years. There is potential for cooperation between Uzbekistan and India in these areas. Of the 110 Uzbek nationals going for short and medium term training in India every year under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC), nearly 50 to 60% go for training in Information Technology related fields. The setting up of an Indian IT training centre in Uzbekistan is under discussion. We have also signed a Work Plan for cooperation in the area of agriculture in 2004. It covers important aspects such as rice and cotton crops, genetic improvement of cattle and improvement of agricultural machinery.
Q. Mr. Ambassador, could you tell us a few words about your personal life and bio data.
A. I hail from the Indian state of Punjab. I studied Economics and Political Science at the graduate level and Political Science at the post graduate level. I did a short stint of about 2 years in an Indian bank before joining the Indian Foreign Service in 1975. Since then, I have worked at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, twice at the Indian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva and the Indian Diplomatic Missions in Madagascar, France, Mauritius and Pakistan.