Indian Army chief talks defence relations with Uzbekistan

Indian Army chief talks defence relations with Uzbekistan

This is the first-ever visit by an Indian Army chief to Uzbekistan since its independence in 1991.

At Tashkent since Thursday, Singh met Uzbek Deputy Defence Minister and its Defence Forces Joint Staff chief Lt. Gen. B. Tashmatov, when the two sides discussed specifics of their bilateral programmes such as training of personnel and visits by military officers to each other's academies.

He also visited the Tashkent Military School, where he got acquainted with Uzbek military training practices. Singh visited the Uzbekistan's Samarkand province, where he was hosted by its governor Friday.

The Indian Army chief's visit is part of India's efforts to bolster its defence relations with Central Asian nations, as part of which Defence Minister A.K. Antony had visited Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in October this year.

The Indian Army chief will also be visiting Kazakhstan from Sunday to Tuesday. In Astana, Singh will also meet with Kazakh defence leadership. This will be the first visit by an Indian Army chief to independent Kazakhstan since 1996, when then army chief General Shankar Roy Choudhury was there to further bilateral defence relations.

Having a robust relations with all Central Asian nations, India has stepped up interaction with them, given their strategic location and a vast reservoir of gas.

The land-locked Central Asian nations are strategically important and that is the reason several other countries, including the US, are vying with each other to make their presence felt there.

India considers the Central Asian region its extended neighbourhood. With China and Pakistan showing greater interest in the region with an eye on its abundant natural resources, India's focus on these nations has naturally increased, what with plans by Indian oil companies to tap the gas reserves there.

Apart from sharing historical ties with Central Asian countries, India has a special cultural links with them, apart from defence and security relations.

In fact, India has built an air base in Aini close to Tajik capital Dushanbe and it is said that the project has served New Delhi to attain strategic reach.

With Uzbekistan, India has signed a number of trade, commerce, science and technology and agriculture agreements.

Moreover, India holds frequent joint exercises with armed forces of Uzbekistan for the last several years, apart from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) collaborating on some key projects with Krygyzstan.

India and Kazakhstan held strategic level talks in 2009 and the Kazakh president was invited as chief guest for the Republic Day parade that year. The two countries have developed close cooperation in fighting terrorism and promoting regional security.