By: Shukria Kohistani
Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is keen that India joins a railway project in Afghanistan that will help in stabilising the landlocked country and connect it to Eurasia and Iran.
The railway, almost 650 km in length, which will connect Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat cities and will later be extended to Kabul, is a major project agreed to by President Ashraf Ghani and President Mirziyoyev.
The preliminary surveys for the project have already been completed. “Uzbekistan support a greater presence of India in Central Asia that will also help Afghanistan,” sources said.
“India’s proven record and experience of projects in Afghanistan,” sources said.
Uzbekistan has an interest in opening trade and connectivity routes all the way to the Indian Ocean.
The project, for which Uzbekistan has already pledged $500 million, could become another major regional connectivity project for India, after its construction of the Zaranj-Delaram Highway in Afghanistan and the Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar, Iran. India last week decided to open more ports for Chabahar and the issue of connectivity to Chabahar will be among talking points when Foreign Minister visits Tehran Sunday & Monday.
India is committed to building rail route, from Chabahar to Zahedan on the Iran-Afghan border, and President Mirziyoyev is keen to join the transit trade agreement signed by India, Afghanistan and Iran. India also wants to connect Central Asia via INSTC and through Ashgabat agreement that includes Oman.
The rail route to Herat, if extended to Kabul, would also link to India’s “air corridor”, allowing trade, especially dry fruits and agricultural produce to travel along the routes from India to Central Asia and back in much shorter time.
Uzbekistan has held talks with Iran and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Uzbekistan’s role in regional security is likely to grow as it will take over the Secretary Generalship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in January 2019.