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PM hopes visit to Russia, Central Asia will push ties

India is one of the observer states in the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

NEW DELHI (PTI): Ahead of his eight-day visit to five Central Asian countries and Russia from July 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed confidence that it will further enhance ties with these countries as well as other members of BRICS and SCO whose Summits he will attend.

He will travel to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. He will also go to Russia where he will attend the Summits of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Ufa, Russia.

"My first visit will be to Uzbekistan, which is the most populous country in Central Asia. India and Uzbekistan enjoy a close strategic partnership," Modi said in a statement here, adding "I am confident that this visit will be a major step towards further expanding India-Uzbekistan ties".

In Uzbekistan, he said, he would be holding talks with President Karimov and the two countries will sign "key agreements" to strengthen bilateral cooperation.

"We want to expand our economic ties with Uzbekistan and enhance trade and economic linkages," he said.

Noting that Indian movies, Hindi language and music are very popular in Uzbekistan, Modi said he would be interacting with Indologists, students learning Hindi and members of the Indian community. There are over 3,000 Indians in Uzbekistan.

During the visit, he will also be paying his tributes to the "proud son of India" Lal Bahadur Shastri. "It was in Tashkent that we lost one of our most popular and respected leaders, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri ji, who ignited our nation with the clarion call of 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan'," he said.

He will then travel to Kazakhstan, the largest of the central Asian Nations, on July 7.

"Kazakhstan is India's largest trading partner in Central Asia and has been a valued friend of India at various international forums. India and Kazakhstan have a strategic partnership, indicating the importance we attach to relation with Kazakhstan," the Prime Minister said.

In Kazakhstan, he will be meeting President Nursultan Nazarbayev which will be followed by the signing of documents.

"India and Kazakhstan are cooperating in a wide range of sectors including energy and space. I see a huge opportunity for our economic ties to grow further. India and Kazakhstan can also increase ties in agriculture," he said.

In Kazakhstan, the Prime Minister will also address students at Nazarbayev University and inaugurate the India-Kazakhstan Centre for Excellence in Information and Communication Technology.

"Our cultural ties with Kazakhstan are deep-rooted. Our films, TV serials and dance are very popular. Yoga is gaining popularity," Modi said while appreciating the "enthusiasm" with which the country joined Yoga Day celebrations on June 21.

"May this visit script a historic chapter in our ties with a valued friend," he said.

From Kazakhstan, he will travel to Ufa in Russia to attend the 7th BRICS Summit and SCO Summit.

"The Summit last year was productive and I am sure we will build on the ground covered during the last Summit. I expect positive outcomes in economic cooperation and cultural ties among the BRICS nations," he said.

He said he will be meeting the leaders individually and will be a part of the various interactions of BRICS leaders with captains of industry and leaders of other invited countries.

"India attaches high importance to BRICS. It is a great forum that can contribute effectively to mitigate global challenges. BRICS also has a very crucial role to play in furthering world peace and security and ensuring we leave behind a better planet for our future generations," Modi said.

He will then go to Turkmenistan on July 11, marking the first Prime Ministerial visit from India after P V Narasimha Rao's trip in 1995.

"I view this visit as an excellent opportunity to strengthen India-Turkmenistan ties in several areas," he said, while noting that some agreements will be signed.

"Areas where I see a rich scope for better ties with Turkmenistan include tourism, fertilizers, space, science and technology and defence. Our bilateral trade is way below its potential and I am confident we can improve it," Modi said.

He will also unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and inaugurate a Traditional Medicine and Yoga Centre.

"It is my firm belief that my visit will take India-Turkmenistan ties to the next level and benefit our citizens," he said.

The fourth Central Asian country that Modi will visit is Kyrgyzstan, the first Prime Ministerial visit in 20 years.

He said his talks with President Almazbek Atambayev will be focused on ways to develop a strong partnership in as many areas as possible. "Stronger economic ties between India and Kyrgyzstan will be very helpful in the long run," he said.

During the visit, India will be gifting medical equipment to Kyrgyz Field Hospital which Modi hoped will "touch the lives of several sisters and brothers in Kyrgyzstan".

He will also inaugurate Tele-medicine links, which shall promote medical tourism from Kyrgyzstan to India. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi will also be unveiled.

"May this visit usher in a new era of very strong India-Kyrgyzstan ties," Modi said.

On July 12 and 13, he will be in Tajikistan. The last time an Indian Prime Minister visited the country was Atal Bihari Vajpayee in November 2003.

"We have a strategic partnership with Tajikistan and have very strong defence cooperation as well. However, our economic cooperation has been limited and the scope of growth is immense. Bilateral trade has huge potential," he said.

"My visit will build on the existing strong diplomatic and defence ties and script a fresh chapter in our economic ties," he said, while looking forward to meeting President Emomali Rahmon.

Modi said "key agreements" will also be signed after the talks. He will also be gifting medicines for the India-Tajikistan Friendship Hospital and unveil Rabindranath Tagore's statue.

"You would be interested to know that Indian films are shown on Tajik television. The Indian Cultural Centre in Dushanbe is popular among people who go there to learn Tabla, Kathak, Yoga and Hindi among other activities," Modi said.

"I am optimistic that the outcomes from this visit will be very positive and further deepen the strong bond between India and Tajikistan," he said.


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