India and Uzbekistan have agreed to do a pilot container cargo shipment from Tashkent to India, using a hybrid land-sea route via Iran’s Chabahar Port, as part of ongoing negotiations. Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal met Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investment & Foreign Trade, Jamshid Khodjaev to finalise the agreement.
“Both India and Uzbekistan agreed that this new vista may unlock future possibilities of a Trans Caspian Multi Modal Transit Corridor between the Central Asia and South Asia regions,” a Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways document said. The shipment will reach India’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai.
The shipment is expected to be executed in the next 15-20 days, an official in the know of the matter said. This will not only open up new opportunities of trade but also strengthen the trade viability between the Central Asian and South Asian markets, Sonowal said after the meeting.
Ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, talks of augmenting trade via the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) have gained momentum. The route, which hinges on Iran’s Chabahar Port as a key pillar, is India’s bid for faster and smoother trade with Russia, Europe, Central Asian economies. Uzbekistan’s Deputy PM Khodjaev visited India to meet Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal for a session of the Intergovernmental Commission, with a focus on agriculture, textiles, and leather, among others. Khodjaev also met the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar recently.
The two countries aim to increase their bilateral trade by over two times to over US$ 1 billion. However, connectivity has been an issue, which they hope to resolve via the Iranian port. In 2018, Chabahar Port was acquired by India Ports Global Ltd through its subsidiary India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone (IPGCFZ).
The Chabahar Port, once connected through all-weather highways on the INSTC route, is India’s chance to increase trade in central Asia, which the Centre expects has an eight-fold potential against the current US$ 678 million, according to reports. Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is also visiting the Uzbek capital before Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s visit to the country in September.