India, Tajikistan discuss Afghanistan

Dushanbe (Tajikistan), April 15 (IANS) India and Tajikistan Monday discussed the situation in Afghanistan where international forces are set for a drawdown next year, and agreed that the global community should strengthen Afghanistan’s capacity to maintain peace, stability and prosperity of its people.

Visiting Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari, addressing a joint media interaction with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe, said the two had exchanged views on how to cooperate in maintaining regional peace and security and especially in Afghanistan, which “is of prime importance”.

Ansari, who is on a four-day visit beginning April 14 – the first by an Indian vice president – said: “Both the president (Rahmon) and I agree that nations in the region, as well as the international community, should strengthen Afghanistan’s capacity to maintain peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan peoples.”

He also congratulated the central Asian country on becoming the 159th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying that India will work with Tajikistan within the WTO “to our mutual benefit”.

“The deeper integration of Tajikistan with the global economy will not only benefit your country but would also enhance our bilateral trade and economic cooperation,” Ansari said.

Bilateral trade, which stood at $27 million in 2012, has been constrained due to transportation difficulties. Goods from India have to travel by sea from Bandar Abbas in Iran and then by road to the landlocked Tajikistan.

India is taking steps to re-energise the north-south corridor and also the trans-Afghan corridor for access to Tajikistan.

Ansari said he had a very productive meeting on a one-to-one basis with Rahmon followed by very constructive delegation-level talks. The talks focussed on further strengthening the already close relations between the two “brotherly countries”.

Ansari emphasised “India’s commitment to our strategic partnership. We have agreed to strengthen our relations further in the energy sector, IT, health, education and in the establishment of small and micro industries in Tajikistan”.

Both sides discussed cooperation on security issues as well as in countering cross-border terrorism. “I also apprised his excellency the president of India’s drive to expand its relationship with the countries of central Asia through a ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy.”

The vice president said both sides discussed different ways to strengthen the strategic partnership and agreed to focus on common approaches and work towards the welfare of both their peoples.

Landlocked Tajikistan is of “immense geo-strategic importance” to India, sharing a 520 km border with China and a porous 1,425 km border with Afghanistan, including the narrow Afghan-Wakhan corridor, which at its narrowest point, is 16 km away from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

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