The Times Kuwait Report
Tashkent the capital of Uzbekistan hosted the high level international conference, discussing regional security, economic integration, transport-communications and the culture of Central and South Asia. On the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to strengthen regional cooperation the High Level International Conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities” held in the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent on 15-16 July, 2021.
The idea was aimed for further deepening economic cooperation in Central Asia, with access to South Asia, which has historically been closely linked to Central Asian region in economic, social, cultural and civilizational dimensions. The International Conference was intended to form a political and expert platform for multilateral discussion of the mutually beneficial strategic model “Central Asia – South Asia” in transport and logistics, energy, trade, industry, investment, technological, cultural and humanitarian domains.
The conference was attended by the President of Afghanistan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the ministers of foreign affairs of Central and South Asian countries, delegations of 44 countries and about 30 international organizations, heads of authoritative research and analytical centers.
The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev emphasized the historical proximity of the regions of Central and South Asia, the importance of strengthening is based on mutual trust and consideration of interests. Central and South Asia have interacted with each other since ancient times. New knowledge and scientific achievements, cultural and spiritual values were spread along the Great Silk and Indo-Gangetic Roads. The peoples of both regions were within the framework of common state formations – the Bactrian and Kushan kingdoms, the Turkic Khaganate, the states of the Ghaznavids, Timurids and Baburids.
In his speech, the Head of Uzbekistan emphasized the importance of reviving historical ties and collective efforts.
“Today the world has entered the era of global geopolitical transformations, which bring both challenges and new opportunities. In these conditions, the revival of mutual ties between Central and South Asia, where about two billion people live today, is becoming an even more demanded and objective process.
I think that the time has come, based on the huge historical, scientific, spiritual and cultural heritage of our peoples, the complementarity of economies, the availability of intellectual potential, to consolidate our joint efforts, which will undoubtedly give a powerful synergy effect”, Shavkat Mirziyoyev said.
The President put forward important initiatives aimed at achieving these goals.
The priority importance of trade and economic cooperation was noted. Holding of an annual interregional forum was proposed to discuss the current issues of enhancing the economic agenda of cooperation, deepening cooperation and investment interaction between the countries of the two regions.
The President of Uzbekistan paid special attention to the issue of building a transport and logistics infrastructure that will effectively and safely connect Central and South Asia. The Termez – Mazar-i-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar railway is to become a key element of the entire architecture of the connectivity of our regions, the construction project of which has already received wide support, including from leading international financial institutions. The construction of this railway will make it possible to fully realize the transit potential of the two regions, form the shortest route, and significantly reduce the time and costs for the transportation of goods.
The Head of the state in his speech paid special attention to the necessity of cooperation in science, technology and innovation. He noted the importance of stimulating joint research and exchange programs, as well as introducing a simplified visa regime for scientists and researchers.
On the eve of the conference, the International Institute for Central Asia opened in Tashkent. The President proposed to create an expert group on the development of regional cooperation based on this analytical center.
“The historical, cultural and civilizational community of Central and South Asia, the coinciding interests of our countries and peoples are a solid foundation on which we can build a common prosperous future. Together we will have to turn Central and South Asia, and our entire Eurasian continent, into a stable, economically developed and prosperous space”, the President of Uzbekistan said.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the conference participants via a video message.
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell spoke about the prospects for cooperation in the region and the importance of the forum.
Following the conference, it is planned to develop a special draft resolution, which will be submitted for consideration by the UN General Assembly.
Opportunities and initiatives aimed for further strengthening regional connectivity in trade, economic, transport and communication, cultural and humanitarian spheres discussed at the plenary and breakout sessions of the forum.
After the plenary session the Conference continued its work in 3 panel sessions that also consider the state of affairs and prospects of interregional cooperation in Central and South Asia, successful examples of cooperation, promising interconnected infrastructural projects.
• The first panel session “Trade and Transport Connectivity for Sustainable Growth” was focused on:- prospects for the modernization of the economies of Central and South Asia in the context of strengthening interregional connectivity;
- opportunities for the development of transport and communications connectivity in Central and South Asia, including projects to expand existing and build new transport corridors;
- priority areas of cooperation with foreign and international financial and investment institutions and other issues.
• The second session “Revival of cultural and humanitarian ties as a way to strengthen friendship and mutual confidence” considered:
- cooperation in studying, preserving and promoting the historical and cultural heritage of Central and South Asia;
- interaction in the fields of education, social support and protection of the youth interests, healthcare, science and technology, ecology, tourism.
• The third panel session “Regional Security. Challenges and Threats” focused on the prospects of regional cooperation in combating new threats and challenges, as well as ensuring the security of cross-border infrastructure. The conference concluded with a summary of the results of the event by the moderators and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
In general, the High-Level International Conference held in Tashkent provided a unique opportunity for an open discussion of the whole range of topical issues related to the development and strengthening of regional connectivity in Central and South Asia.
At the end of the Conference Joint statement on the Development of Regional Connectivity has been adopted by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Central and South Asian countries – participants of the International Conference.
Guided by the principles of openness, transparency, equality, mutual trust and respect in the international relations the Statement notes the need for transit and trade among the countries of Central and South Asia in accordance with international norms and regulations, and taking into account various international and regional initiatives to develop regional connectivity, to increase the efficiency of trade and economic relations among the states of the two regions to realize their unique transport, transit and investment capabilities.
Participants reaffirmed their commitment to accelerate collective transformative economic, social and environmental solutions to recover better from the COVID-19 and to achieve the Goals of Agenda 2030 in a Decade of Action.
The importance of Afghanistan’s role as the “regional bridge” for connectivity between Central and South Asia and called for economic development of Afghanistan through the implementation of joint regional projects in the global economic relations emphasized by the participants.
It is expressed readiness for further contribution to strengthening of the good-neighborly and friendly relations and mutual understanding among peoples, deepening ties in the field of education, science and technology, innovation, tourism, culture, art and sports.
The importance of sharing experiences and joint development responses to the environmental and natural calamities management issues, while also exploring cooperative initiatives that contribute to the protection of the environment and the ecosystems emphasized in the Statement.
Within the framework of the conference, the President of Uzbekistan received a number of heads of delegation, including ministers of foreign countries.
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev received the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for the Cabinet of Ministers of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah.
The head of Uzbekistan emphasized the importance of further development of traditionally friendly relations between the two countries. Confidence was expressed that the present visit of the head of the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry would contribute to the intensification of contacts and exchanges.
Foreign Minister of Kuwait conveyed warm greetings and best wishes from the Emir of Kuwait Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah to the leader of Uzbekistan, and also expressed strong support for efforts to strengthen interconnection between the regions of Central and South Asia.
During the meeting, prospects for expanding practical cooperation were discussed, primarily in the areas of trade, investment and innovation, finance, food security, information technology, education and others.
An agreement was reached on holding the next meeting of the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission and preparing a joint program of events within the framework of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
As a result of the meeting, the parties agreed to develop a Roadmap, including specific activities. Among them:
- the 3rd round of inter-ministerial political consultations in October this year in Tashkent;
- the 1st meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific-technical cooperation;
- the realization of new projects in the financial and technical sphere with the participation of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development;
- the establishment of cooperation in the field of combating the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and mitigating its consequences, the exchange of experience and specialists;
- the development of cooperation between the universities of Uzbekistan and the Kuwait University, as well as in the field of “IT” technologies and cybersecurity.
In sum, during the meeting, a constructive exchange of views took place on topical aspects of the international and regional agenda.