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NEWS

Afghanistan may serve as land-bridge to Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf for Uzbekistan

en.trend.az/
7 September 2020

Afghanistan is not only a market for Uzbek products, but it can also serve as a land-bridge between Central Asia and South Asia, namely connecting with India and Pakistan, a researcher at Center on International Cooperation-NYU, Said Sabir Ibrahimi told Trend in an interview.

"Under President Ashraf Ghani and President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the two countries are adamant about regional economic connectivity. As landlocked countries, they both need it," said Ibrahimi.

The two neighbors have already established extensive economic relations. Tashkent built Afghanistan's first railroad connecting Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif. Another railway is to connect the north of the country to the south-west (Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat). Tashkent has also said that this railroad will be connected to railways in Uzbekistan and China.

Uzbekistan also serves as a major source of electricity for Afghanistan. Afghanistan is Uzbekistan's top 10 trading partner, around $600 million trade volume.

On the peace process, Uzbekistan has offered to assist and perhaps host the intra-Afghan talks in Samarkand. However, in 2019 Tashkent hosting the Taliban for an extensive tour had raised eyebrows in Afghanistan.

"While Tashkent, like any other country of the region, has established relations with the Taliban to secure its security interests, it should do it in a way that it does not undermine the government of Afghanistan," the researcher underlined.

There is no doubt that Afghanistan and the international communities have accepted the Taliban as a reality and that is why now there is a peace process undergoing.

"Many Afghans do not want to return to the Taliban regime of the 1990s, but they are open to a power-sharing mechanism," said Ibrahimi.

In March 2018, Uzbekistan hosted an international conference in Tashkent which resulted in a declaration to support the efforts of the government of Afghanistan in peacemaking. This also led to working groups on several issues such as economy, security.

Tashkent is a member of the Afghanistan-US-Uzbekistan trilateral and the United Nations 6+2 format (an informal coalition of the six nations bordering with Afghanistan, plus the United States and Russia) among other formats. The United States realizes the importance of the role that Central Asian states can play in Afghanistan's future.

The trilateral aims to address several cross-border issues and focus on the shared interests of the countries, including promoting regional connectivity and supporting the Afghan peace process.

"In these forums, Uzbekistan can continue to play a positive role in creating regional cooperation and in supporting stability in Afghanistan which ultimately can help regional prosperity," the researcher added.