India is very close to importing uranium from Uzbekistan and an agreement in this regard is nearing completion, official sources said today. The issue came up for discussion during talks here between visiting External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov, the sources said.
The agreement will not be a civil nuclear deal but a contract like the one with Kazakhstan, under which India will import a little over 2,000 tonnes of uranium by 2014, they said. Khurshid travelled to Tashkent yesterday after attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
Another important issue that figured in the bilateral talks was connectivity. "Uzbekistan is looking to extend the Friendship Railway bridge to Herat in western Afghanistan," said Joint Secretary (Eurasia) Ajay Bisaria, who is part of the Indian delegation.
If the rail link is taken further east, it could link the region with Mashhad in Iran. Iran will also build a railway line to Chabahar port, where India has committed to invest.
Khurshid said he and Kamilov discussed the willingness of the two countries to engage on economic corridors. "What we indicated to Uzbekistan is to link up the common elements where there can be no disagreement." He further said there is lot of desire in Uzbekistan to see the entry of the Indian private sector.
"What governments can do together has to be enhanced by the private sector. Conditionalities of agreement may be difficult but these can be discussed," he said.
Both sides stressed that there should be more people-to-people contacts. Uzbekistan is also keen on engaging with India in sectors like hydrocarbons, IT, education, agriculture and food processing.