My journey on the road to Samarkand brings me to the Navoi International Airport and cargo facility, where I am met by airport executives who brief me and my colleagues on the joint venture cargo operation between Uzbekistan Airways and Korean Air. They give us a tour of the site, noting that Korea is Uzbekistan's fourth largest trading partner, after Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. Trade with the United States, on the other hand, is a mere two percent of Uzbekistan's total trade, highlighting the enormous potential for future growth. On the tour, I learn that weekly flights from New Delhi, Mumbai, Dhaka, and other South and East Asian cities use the facility for shipping their goods to Europe, Russia, and the Middle East -- a very modern incarnation of the ancient Silk Road.
By the end of the day, jet lag is starting to catch up with me, but I am still eager to learn about what is happening at the airport and cargo facility. Our hosts treat us to a dinner of authentic Korean food, flown in from Seoul that morning, and following dinner I prepare for my meetings the next day.
Over the next few days, I meet with Uzbek government officials to talk about rail, energy, and trade projects, and with representatives from the business and development communities to identify challenges and opportunities for U.S. companies. When it's finally time to return home, I'm convinced of the huge economic potential of the region, and can see that the New Silk Road is already taking shape, re-connecting South and Central Asia. My impressions are reinforced as I board Uzbekistan Air's shiny new Boeing 767 en route to London. The flight originated in Amritsar, India, and I strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger who flies the route frequently for business.
As regional connections like these continue to expand, and cross-border collaboration and trade grow, Central and South Asia can once again become a bustling hub for global commerce, establishing what one Foreign Minister has called the region's new "Great Gain." I'm glad that my visit supports U.S. efforts to promote and leverage these emerging opportunities.
Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series by Siriana Nair, who recently traveled to Uzbekistan.