Indian PM to host first central Asian summit
- India's Prime Minister will host the first-ever India-Central Asia Summit virtually on January 27, 2022.
- The virtual event will see participation from Presidents of five central Asian nations- Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic.
- The summit is symbolic of the importance attached by the leaders of India and central Asian countries to a comprehensive and enduring India central Asia partnership
- The key focus of the summit is likely to be regional security, Afghanistan issue and trade and connectivity, culture, development partnership and people-to-people ties.
- This will be the first such high-level engagement between India and the Central Asian countries
India-Central Asia relations
- India and Central Asia have had long standing historical, cultural, political, and economic relations that have over the time metamorphosed into a stable, mature, and transformational partnership.
- India’s proximity and growing convergence on issues of mutual concern with the five Central Asian countries comprising Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have been reflected in heightened cooperation in addressing emerging geostrategic challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing world order.
- Concurrently, the two sides have enhanced deliberations and cooperation on areas such as trade and connectivity, economic development, development partnership, energy security, regional issues of mutual interests
Areas of cooperation
- India’s trade volume with central Asia is US$ 2 billion
- Kazind: It is annual bilateral joint exercise between India-Kazakhstan
- Its focus is to counter insurgency and terrorism in an urban and rural environment.
- India's only overseas air base lies in Farkhor, Tajikistan.
- People to people contact is the defining feature of India’s Connect Central Asia Policy.
- Higher education: Many students from Central Asia come to India for higher studies as India provides the same at marginal cost compared to European and American universities.
- Research: Many Indian students also visit Central Asia for research purposes.
- Indian cultural products have been extremely popular in the region since the time of the USSR.
- People in Central Asia listen to Hindi music and watch Bollywood movies.
- Organisational cooperation:India and central Asian countries cooperating through Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO)
Indian efforts to enhance engagement with Central Asia
- India-Central Asia Dialogue: it is a ministerial-level dialogue b/w India and CentralAsian countries
- Its aim is to provide a platform for strengthening coop. in political, security, economic and commercial, development partnership, humanitarian and cultural spheres,
- Line of Credit: US$ 1 billion LOC is extended by India for priority development projects in Central Asia in connectivity, energy, IT, healthcare, education, agriculture etc.
- Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods: India acceded to it under cover of TIR Carnets in 2017
- Ashgabat Agreement: India also joined it which includes Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan in 2018.
- High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP): India provides Grant assistance for furthering socio-economic development.
- India-Central Asia Business Council (ICABC): launched in February 2020 and comprises FICCI and chambers of commerce from 5 central Asian countries.
- Hosting of Central Asian media delegation in India in April 2019.
- Training of Central Asian diplomats at Sushma Swaraj Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi in July 2019.
- Growing influence of China in Central Asia: China’s BRI Initiative seems to be a credible threat to India’s objective on overcoming connectivity issues with Central Asia.
- Lack of accessibility: India does not share physical borders with any of the Central Asian states.
- Domestic challenges faced by region: religious extremism, authoritarian regimes, terrorism, ongoing conflicts etc makes it difficult in furthering India’s economic interests.
- Connectivity issue: Central Asia, not a part of India’s immediate neighbourhood, issue of connectivity b/w 2 regions becomes of paramount importance.
- Landlock nature: Due to the landlocked nature of Central Asian states, no direct sea route b/w India and region and that too has a huge impact on regional connectivity.
- India should leverage historical, cultural and civilizational bonds and form traditionally close people-to-people contacts to build its Central Asia partnership.
- India has the opportunity of actively engaging in economic, infrastructure, energy, transit and transport projects through Central Asia Dialogue
- India should effectively use Chabahar port in Iran to establish trade and transport communications with Central Asian markets.