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India, Uzbekistan to boost energy security

India raised its stakes in Central Asia by signing seven accords with Uzbekistan in various fields.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 16:53 IST

India on Wednesday raised its stakes in Central Asia by signing seven accords with Uzbekistan in the fields of energy, education, business and mineral prospecting and stepping up the joint fight against terrorism.

In a significant boost for India's energy diplomacy, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said he was willing to offer India oil exploration blocks on a joint management basis in the ratio of 50:50.

"Both our countries face the common threats of terrorism, fundamentalism and religious extremism and President Karimov and I have resolved to continue to work together to combat these dangers," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters in Tashkent.

He was speaking at a joint press interaction with Karimov.

Manmohan Singh and Karimov have held talks on a wide array of bilateral and global issues, including terrorism, trade, energy security, the situation in Afghanistan and regional stability.

Karimov underlined the need for combating drug trafficking in Afghanistan, which he said was the fountainhead of terrorist financing in the entire region.

He reiterated his country's firm support for "India's presence in an expanded UN Security Council."

The 67-year-old Uzbek strongman also took not-so-subtle potshots at the US' presence in the region, which is being now opposed by Karimov after souring of relations with Washington.

"Despite the presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, the production of opium, instead of decreasing, has gone up," he said.

Later, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Uzbekistan for the establishment of Uzbekistan India Entrepreneurship Centre in the Uzbek capital that will be the training ground for young businessman and lead to the generation of extra employment.

Another accord was signed between the Indian ministry of coal and mines and the state committee of Uzbekistan for cooperation in the field of geology and mineral resources.

Two accords on energy cooperation were signed between the two sides -- one MoU was signed between the Indian ministry of petroleum and the national holding company of Uzbekneftegaz and another was inked between the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and Uzbekneftegaz.

Three other pacts are in the fields of agriculture, trade and education.

The accords were signed in the presence of Manmohan Singh and Karimov at the presidential residence.

Both countries also agreed to "qualitatively enhance the commercial and economic relationship" and intensify cooperation in sectors of the knowledge industry like IT.