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India, Uzbekistan to ramp up defence and military ties amid ‘global unrest’

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New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Chief of Army Staff, General Manoj Pande embarked on a four-day visit to Uzbekistan on Monday to bolster defence cooperation between New Delhi and Tashkent. Apart from holding talks with the top military officers, the Army chief will also visit Termez on April 18 to witness the joint exercise Dustlik between the armed forces of India and Uzbekistan.During interactions with the top military brass, he will be exploring “new areas” on which the two countries can work in a “more comprehensive and coordinated manner”.While engaging in dialogue with the top defence leadership of Uzbekistan, General Pande is expected to take stock of the various strategic and security challenges resulting from growing “global hostilities” and “spectre of war”, sources in diplomatic and strategic establishments told IANS.The two sides will explore ways to take the military and defence cooperation to a new height to deal with such challenges more effectively.Significantly, the Army chief’s visit to Central Asia’s second-biggest economy is taking place a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about “the time of global conflicts and uncertainties”.The PM said that there is a cloud of uncertainty and tension looming over the world as there are conflicts everywhere. He had stressed the need for a strong and stable government in India amidst such global unrest.PM Modi was referring to the rising tension in the Middle East, a sensitive region where no less than one crore Indians live. He was concerned about the safety of Indians in such conflict-ridden zones, indicating that only a strong government can secure the lives of our people abroad.With the global unrest in the backdrop, all eyes will be on the Army chief’s upcoming talks with Uzbek Defence Minister, Lt General Bakhodir Kurbanov.Ramping up military and defence cooperation between the two countries will be one of the top agendas.Apart from the Ukraine conflict, the issue of terrorism will also figure prominently during the talks, say sources. Intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies of India and Uzbekistan are already working together in a coordinated manner to combat the threat of terrorism from various regions.The two countries have already broad-based cooperation to destroy terrorist safe havens, networks and funding channels.The Army Chief in talks with his Uzbek counterpart is expected to review the existing cooperation to deal with the challenge of terrorism emanating from the territory under control of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What is worth mentioning here is that India and Uzbekistan share common perspectives on a number of security issues, including terrorism, transnational organised crime, illegal trafficking and smuggling, etc.The two nations have been working closely in these areas. Now, India is keen to expand existing ties to a much higher level to work more closely on security and strategic issues. In what highlights robust ties between the two countries is the fact that India was one of the first nations to recognise the state sovereignty of Uzbekistan after the latter’s independence.PM Narendra Modi has always put primacy on ties with Uzbekistan. He attended a meeting of the Head of States of the SCO in Samarkand in September 2022. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev also attended a virtual meeting of Heads of State of SCO in July 2023.–IANSbrtv/d

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