At the end of the first ever meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue, India and five Central Asian countries along with Afghanistan condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed to cooperate in countering the menace which poses a threat to people across the world.
THE INDIA CENTRAL ASIA DIALOGUE:
Highlights of Joint Statement:
- The statement conveyed that all the nations expressed their intention to strengthen cooperation in order to create real opportunities for expanding economic cooperation and ensuring favourable conditions for mutual free trade.
- The statement also said that the countries reaffirmed their willingness for cooperation, mutual support, joint solution on relevant issues in order to ensure security, stability, and sustainable development.
- They highlighted the importance of concerted efforts to improve the investment climate and the market attractiveness of the region’s economy, business opportunities of the Central Asian countries on the world stage.
- The statement also noted special attention was paid to the need to expand and establish direct mutually beneficial economic and cultural ties between the regions and cities of India and the countries of Central Asia and expressed their intention to contribute to this direction.
- As all the nations share the same civilizational and cultural values, they expressed commitment to dynamic and fruitful friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation.
- India and central Asian countries also expressed their mutually beneficial cooperation at bilateral and multilateral formats.
- Along with India, central Asian countries welcomed the participation of Afghanistan in the India-Central Asia Dialogue and expressed commitment security and stability of Afghanistan.
- They also called for an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation, and assistance in the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.
- Countries welcomed the accession of India into the Ashgabat agreement on creating an international transport and transit corridor.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RECENT INDIA-CENTRAL ASIA DIALOGUE:
The participating countries emphasized the importance of developing and implementing projects that provide a concerted solution to the problems and issues of economic growth of the countries of Central Asia.
They also noted the importance of sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan and showed a willingness to cooperate in preparation for the RECCA VIII meet in Tashkent in the second half of 2019.
The association of the countries also discussed promising opportunities and areas of cooperation in promoting mutual trade, attracting investments, innovations, and technologies that will be mutually beneficial for them.
IMPORTANCE OF CENTRAL ASIAN COUNTRIES FOR INDIA:
Central Asian nations comprised of five countries namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, collectively known as Central Asian Republics(CAR). The importance of the Central Asian region can be observed with the below-mentioned factors:
- Economic Importance: The Central Asian countries are rich Oil and gas deposits. They also the major producer and exporter of agricultural products like cotton, wool, meat, animal skins, and leather goods.
- Huge Deposit of Minerals: The region has considerable deposits of minerals such as uranium, gold, silver, iron ore, coal, copper, zinc, lead and manganese among others.
- Strategic Importance: Strategically, the region can help India to develop the International North-South Transport Corridor which is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight from India to Europe through Central Asia and Russia.
- Geographical Location: The geographic location of these countries are proven important for India as the countries act as a bridge between different regions of Asia and between Europe and Asia.
- Long Cultural Links: India and Central Asian countries have long been shared long cultural links that will be a crucial factor for creating mutual trust and reducing the threat of radicalization.
INDIA’S APPROACH AND INITIATIVES OVER THE REGION:
India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ Policy:
India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ Policy is a broad-based approach that includes political, security, economic and cultural connections. The major elements of India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy as follows:
- Strengthening India’s strategic and security cooperation over the region.
- Building strong political relations through the exchange of high-level visits.
- Multi-lateral engagement through an existing organization like SCO, EEC, and custom Union.
- India already engaged with countries through military training, joint research, counter-terrorism coordination.
- Formation of a Central Asian e-network with its hub in India, to deliver, tele-education and telemedicine connectivity, linking all the five Central Asian States.
Initiatives were taken so far:
- Developmental activity for Chabahr Port.
- Development of the International North-South Transport Corridor(INSTC)
- Advancing the construction of TAPI by engaging in negotiations with all parties to ensure the long-term security of energy supply.
- India becomes the members of Ashgabat Agreement which is a multimodal transport agreement between India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
- Central Asia is considered to be the largest beneficiaries of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program. Since long, India has been providing education at a marginal cost to Central Asian students
CHALLENGES FOR INDIA:
- Lack of Physical Connectivity: Lack of physical connectivity has been the number one barrier to India’s engagement in the region.
- Unstable Situation in Afghanistan: The unstable situation has deprived India of the benefit of relations with Central Asia.
- Involvement of the Major Power: Central Asia is part of the Silk Road Economic Belt (BRI) initiative of China. And along with China, India’s role in Central Asia is restricted by the involvement of major powers in the region.
India can achieve its vision over the region by increasing developmental and humanitarian aid to the region and promoting closer people-to-people ties through education, knowledge transfer, medicine, and health, culture and tourism sectors. In order to make greater cooperation, India needs to follow the following principle:
- Boosting trade and commercial ties with the region should be on top of India’s priorities because these links are vital to projecting its soft power.
- India will need to display leadership in forging greater coordination and cooperation with Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in the efforts at stabilizing Afghanistan
- Sustained diplomatic efforts are needed for advancing the construction of TAPI by engaging in negotiations with all parties to ensure the long-term security of energy supply.
- India must draw on its partnership with the U.S. to foster cooperation between the West, Russia, and China.