INDIA-CENTRAL ASIA RELATIONS

  • Recently, the Prime Minister of India hosted the first India-Central Asia Summit in virtual format.
  • It was attended by Presidents of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan.
  • This first India-Central Asia coincided with the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Central Asian countries.
  • The summit came two days after a similar China-Central Asia Conference was held where China offered USD 500 million in assistance and pledged to ramp up trade to USD 70 billion from the present levels of about USD 40 billion a year.

Important points:

  • Discussed the next steps in taking India-Central Asia relations to new heights. In a historic decision, the Leaders agreed to institutionalise the Summit mechanism by deciding to hold it every 2 years.
  • They also agreed on regular meetings of Foreign Ministers, Trade Ministers, Culture Ministers and Secretaries of the Security Council to prepare the groundwork for the Summit meetings.
  • An India-Central Asia Secretariat in New Delhi would be set up to support the new mechanism.

India-Central Asia Cooperation:

  • The Leaders discussed far-reaching proposals to further cooperation in areas of trade and connectivity, development cooperation, defence and security and, in particular, on cultural and people to people contacts.These included:
  • Joint Working Groups at senior official level on Afghanistan and use of Chabahar Port.
  • Showcasing of Buddhist exhibitions in Central Asian countries and commissioning of an India-Central Asia dictionary of common words.
  • Visit of 100 member youth delegation annually from Central Asian countries to India and special courses for Central Asian diplomats.
  • A comprehensive Joint Declaration was adopted by the leaders that enumerates their common vision for an enduring and comprehensive India-Central Asia partnership.

Trade:

  • India has always maintained excellent diplomatic ties with all the five Central Asian states, Indian PMs including Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, have visited them. Yet, India’s trade with them has been only at USD 1.4 billion in 2019.
  • In 2017, India joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to engage with the region. But SCO is only a sluice gate to regulate the Russian and Chinese subliminal rivalry to prevent either power from dominating the region.
  • Russia tends to use SCO for regulating India-China tensions.

Way Forward

  • India first needs to get its big-picture imagination of the region correct. Central Asia is undoubtedly a zone of India’s civilisational influence.
  • The Ferghana Valley was India’s crossing-point of the Great Silk Road. Buddhism spread to the rest of Asia from here.
  • The Valley still connects India with three countries: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT

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