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Timely Central-South Asia Connectivity Conference Opens in Uzbekistan

July 15, 2021 (EIRNS)—The two-day “International Conference on Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities” organized by the Uzbekistan government, opened today in a flag-decorated Tashkent. Some 250 participants and 40 delegates from all the regional countries plus many other interested parties participated. High-level participants include the heads of state and government of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the foreign ministers of China, Russia, Iran, India and Turkey; diplomatic representatives from the U.S., Japan, and the European Union. Representatives of leading international organizations, including financial institutions, are among the other guests.

Uzbekistan began organizing this conference last February, in order to discuss how the economies of Central and South Asia can all grow through agreements for multiple regional railroad and other transportation infrastructure. Now, with the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, the role of those great regional infrastructure projects in securing peace and development is front and center in these discussions.

“The main purpose of this conference is deepening cooperation between countries from Central Asia and South Asia in trade and energy issues and other brands of cooperation,” Dilshod Saidjanov, First Deputy Director of Uzbekistan’s Agency for Information and Mass Communications, told India’s ANI today. He explained that land-locked Uzbekistan seeks to reshape transportation in the region, to overcome its long-standing difficulties in reaching the ocean, and “we need cooperation from South Asian countries” to get there.

As for Afghanistan, he continued: “Economic development is the way to make Afghanistan stronger and probably more peaceful. Everyone wants better development in Afghanistan. We agree with other countries in Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Asia, that we want normal trade in the region.”

Various transportation corridors are on the table for discussion, with old geopolitical fault lines being given play to favor one over the other. (Some Indian media suggest that Uzbekistan now favors an outlet to the sea through India, rather than Pakistan, for example.) But the needs are so great, all are needed. As India’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan Manish Prabhat told ANI, “India has been talking to all the countries for connectivity since the year 2000. Iran and Russia were working together along the north transport corridor. Today many countries work together. India wants every possible connection to be maintained in these countries.”

The main sessions of the conference will take place on July 16. Over the course of the two days, the foreign ministers and other diplomats have scheduled innumerable bilateral and sub-regional meetings. The U.S. National Security Council, for example, reported that the two principals in the U.S. delegation, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, have set up numerous meetings.

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