Vice-Prez leaves for Tajikistan on four-day visit

New Delhi: Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Sunday embarked on a four-day visit to Tajikistan where he will discuss ways to boost India's bilateral ties, including trade and defence, with the Central Asian country.

During his visit, Ansari will hold high-level talks with Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon and its Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Trade among others to give fresh impetus to bilateral ties.

Ansari's visit is a part of India's connect Central Asia policy, unveiled last year, aimed at greater political, economic and people-to-people engagement with Central Asian nations like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

This is the first ever visit by an Indian Vice-President to Tajikistan, a hydrocarbon and minerals-rich nation.

The two sides will hold discussions on opening trans- Afghan corridor to facilitate easy movement of goods to and from Tajikistan.

"We are also in talks for trans-Afghan corridor which will give us special access to Tajikistan. In terms of trade for 2012, trade figures from Tajikistan was USD 27 million, which is extremely low," a Foreign Ministry official said.

The two countries will also discuss situation in Afghanistan and security related challenges posed by it.

Tajikistan shares a porous 1,420 km-long border with Afghanistan.

Diplomatic relations between the two nations were established in 1992. In May 1994, India opened its diplomatic mission in Dushanbe while Tajikistan opened its embassy in New Delhi in June 2003.

India played a key role in development of Ayni air base in Tajikistan. It still continues to cooperate with authorities there in maintaining the facility.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Tajikistan in 2003. Former President Pratibha Patil had paid a visit to the country in September 2009.

Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon has visited India five times — 1995, 1999, 2001, 2006 and 2012. During his last visit, the two countries had inked six pacts in several areas including business and trade, health, culture, sports and education.

The Vice-President is accompanied by his wife Salma Ansari, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries Tariq Anwar, Rajya Sabha MPs M S Gill (Congress), G N Ratanpuri (Jammu and Kashmir National Conference), Chandan Mitra (BJP) and Lok Sabha MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal).