Kovind visits Turkmenistan, holds talks on strengthening ties, expanding bilateral trade
Ashgabat, April 2, 2022
President Ram Nath Kovind today said India and Turkmenistan have agreed to intensify efforts to further strengthen the multifaceted partnership between the two countries including expanding bilateral trade.
In a press statement during a two-day visit to this country, Kovind noted that this was the first-ever visit by an Indian President to Turkmenistan and also one of the first visits hosted by the new and young leader of Turkmenistan, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov.
Kovind's visit to Turkmenistan is the first stop in a two-nation tour that will also take him to the Netherlands.
On his arrival here yesterday, the President was offered bread and salt by children as per the Turkmen tradition. Subsequently, President Berdimuhamedov received President Kovind and accorded him a ceremonial guard of honour at the Ashgabat airport.
This visit comes on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Turkmenistan. “We have good reasons to be satisfied with the development of our multifaceted bilateral ties over the last three decades and especially in the last decade,” Kovind said.
This morning, Kovind commenced his engagements by paying a visit to Oguzhan Presidential Palace where he was received by Berdimuhamedov. During the one-to-one conversation, the two leaders held a detailed discussion on the state and prospects of bilateral relations. They also exchanged views on various regional and international issues of importance.
Subsequently, the President led delegation-level talks between the two sides.
Speaking on the trade and economic cooperation, the President said that trade between India and Turkmenistan continues to be modest. While it has picked up this year, there remains a lot of untapped potential for enhancing and diversifying it.
"Our business community and officials need to work together on this. They should engage in more frequent and sector-specific interactions with each other to clarify business rules and regulations, document requirements, payment mechanisms etc. India-Central Asia Business Council was established in 2020 under the India–Central Asia Dialogue framework to facilitate regional trade. It is important for our apex Chambers to pro-actively participate in this forum and provide suggestions for taking economic cooperation forward," he said.
Noting that Turkmenistan is planning to further develop its oil and gas fields as well as diversify its petrochemicals sector, the President said that India has made rapid technological advancements in all fields related to oil and gas. The technical and technological capabilities of Indian companies in downstream field could be utilized in further development of petro-chemical sector of Turkmenistan.
Referring to the digitalization drive in Turkmenistan, the President said that India is a global leader in digitalization of economy and service delivery. Turkmenistan may consider utilizing the expertise of Indian companies in its journey towards digital transformation.
Speaking on the regional issues, the President said that India stands for peace and stability as well as an inclusive government in Afghanistan. In order to arrive at a regional perspective on Afghanistan, India convened the ‘Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan’ in New Delhi in November 2021. The first India-Central Asia Summit in January this year reaffirmed our strong support for a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan with an inclusive and representative Government.
The President said that any instability in Afghanistan is a threat to the whole region. "Radicalization cannot be contained to a geographical region. Spread of radicalization, extremism and separatist would be a threat to regional and global security. Our collective approach has been articulated by UN Security Council Resolution 2593 which demanded that Afghan territory not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing terrorist acts," he said.
“As immediate neighbours of Afghanistan, our countries are naturally concerned about the developments within that country and their external repercussions. We share a broad ‘regional consensus’ on the issues related to Afghanistan, which includes the formation of a truly representative and inclusive government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, the central role of the UN, providing immediate humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan and preserving the rights of women, children and other national ethnic groups and minorities,” he said.
“During my meeting today with the President of Turkmenistan, we held a detailed discussion on the state and prospects of bilateral relations. We also exchanged views on various regional and international issues of importance. We have agreed to intensify efforts to further strengthen our multifaceted partnership,” Kovind said in his statement.
“Economic relations strengthen bilateral ties. We agreed to do more to expand bilateral trade which has remained modest. Our business communities must deepen their engagement, understand each other’s regulations and identify new areas of trade and investment," he said.
Kovind expressed confidence that the MoU between the Financial Intelligence Unit of India and Financial Monitoring Service of Turkmenistan signed today would strengthen the framework of economic cooperation between the two countries.
“Connectivity is critical for any trading arrangement. Towards this end, we highlighted the significance of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor. I pointed out that the Chabahar port built by India in Iran could be used to improve trade between India and Central Asia,” he said.
The President said energy cooperation was one of the key areas of today's discussions. On the TAPI pipeline, he suggested that issues related to the security of the pipeline and key business principles may be addressed in Technical and Expert-level meetings.
The two sides aso identified new areas of cooperation such as Disaster Management on which they signed an MoU today. Kovind conveyed India’s readiness to partner with Turkmenistan in its drive towards digitalisation. Space can be another area of mutually beneficial cooperation, he said.
“Our countries share centuries-old civilizational and cultural linkages. During the talks, I underlined the importance of holding regular cultural events in each other’s territory. I am sure the Programme of Cooperation on Culture and Arts for the period 2022-25, signed today, will give direction to our cultural cooperation," he said.
Emphasising the need for both countries to cooperate closely on the effective management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the President said he has proposed that mutual recognition of vaccination certificates by both countries would go a long way in facilitating travel by their citizens.
He noted that Turkmenistan was an important partner in the India–Central Asia Summit framework, the first of which India hosted virtually in January this year. “We agreed to further enhance cooperation under the framework flowing from the India-Central Asia Summit.”
He said India welcomed Turkmenistan’s readiness to send a youth delegation to India within the ambit of India-Central Asia cultural cooperation. “The MoU on Youth Affairs signed today would further intensify exchanges between our youth,” he added.
“Our discussions also stressed that we continue cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, including the United Nations, on issues of international relevance. I thanked Turkmenistan for its support of India’s permanent membership in a reformed and expanded UN Security Council as well as for India’s initiatives as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for 2021-22.
The President said he looked forward to welcoming President Berdimuhamedov to India on a mutually convenient date.
India and Turkmenistan signed and exchanged four MoUs/Programme of Cooperation in the fields of disaster management, financial intelligence, culture and youth matters in the presence of the two Presidents.
In the afternoon, the President paid tributes at the Mausoleum of the First President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov and also laid a wreath at the Independence Monument in Ashgabat.
In the evening, the President met and interacted with ITEC/ICCR/Hindi Alumni/Friends of India group. Addressing the gathering, the President said that India considers Turkmenistan as part of its extended neighbourhood. India was one of the first countries to recognize Turkmenistan’s independence in 1991 and establish formal diplomatic relations in 1992.
The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation, that is, ITEC programme was launched in 1964 with the main objective of assisting friendly countries in capacity building and training of manpower. He was happy to note that over 400 Turkmen citizens have so far benefitted from ITEC courses since 1993.
The President said that ICCR has been sponsoring undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and post-doctoral studies for foreign students in various academic institutions across India. He expressed confidence that Turkmen students who have availed the ICCR’s scholarship scheme would have fond memories of their stay in India and have been able to secure gainful employment with the help of the degree earned through the scheme.
Speaking about the establishment of the Hindi Chair in the Azadi National Institute of World Languages in Ashgabat, in 2010, he was happy to note that there are many people now in Turkmenistan who can converse in Hindi fluently. He expressed confidence that ITEC/ICCR/Hindi Alumni/Friends of India group would always be there to support the political leadership in carrying out the vision for a strong and progressive cooperation between India and Turkmenistan.
Later in the evening, the President will attend a state banquet hosted by President Berdimuhamedov at the Presidential Palace.