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Tajikistan Wants India to Step Up Investments

Thursday 21 May 2015

NEW DELHI (The Hindu) – Tajikistan Foreign Minister Aslov Sirojidin Muhridinovich met his counterpart Sushma Swaraj on last Wednesday. He said his country is “happy” to learn about India’s indication to join the Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Trade and Transit Agreement as the fourth partner. Pakistan is yet to accede to India’s inclusion in the agreement.

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Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Tajik Minister of Foreign Affairs Aslov Sirojidin Muhridinovich at a meeting in New Delhi.

He said the agreement, when finalised, will make trade easier between India and Tajikistan. His comments came in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to India’s willingness to join the trade coalition, made during the recent visit of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.

Mr. Modi had said India joining the agreement “would allow the arrangement to contribute in a meaningful manner to the vision of wider regional economic integration.”

Pointing out that Indian investments in Tajikistan is “not as much as it should be”, Mr Muhridinovich hoped that India would seize the opportunity to invest in his country. He pointed out that Mr Modi’s visit to Tajikistan would give an impetus to bilateral ties between New Delhi and Dushanbe. Mr Modi is expected to travel to Tajikistan later this year.

On the trade agreement between his country, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr. Muhridinovich said the draft (of the agreement) was ready, but not signed as yet as there were issues that need to be settled between Islamabad and Kabul.

Tajikistan shares a 1,400-km-long porous border with Afghanistan and has immense geo-strategic significance for India which has been providing military assistance to it including supply of helicopters as part of counter-terrorism cooperation.

India has also developed the Ayni airbase near the Tajik capital Dushanbe, which provided it a foothold in the Central Asian region.

Delivering a lecture on “Tajikistan Foreign Policy and Regional Security Challenges” at the Indian Council of World Affairs, he said Tajikistan was working on two major rail projects, one of which will connect it to China.

Asked how India and Dushanbe can help in ensuring stability in Afghanistan after foreign forces pull out, he said it was in the interest of the two nations to ensure stability in Afghanistan as any instability there can influence the entire neighbourhood.

“Afghan forces are much stronger today than they were a decade ago. Recently, we saw terrorist gathering in north and eastern parts of Afghanistan, but the Afghan forces will do their best to stop these attacks”, he said.

Besides bilateral issues, the two ministers also deliberated on regional and international issues of mutual interest. “The ministers undertook a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation in political, defence, economic and cultural issues,” the External Affairs Ministry said. It said the ministers signed a new programme of cooperation for 2015-2017 which envisages regular and structured consultations on a range of bilateral issues, including consular matters, training of Tajik diplomatic personnel in India and enhanced information and media exchanges as well as regional and multilateral issues.

During his five-day visit, the Tajikistan Foreign Minister held talks with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

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