- An agreement for importing uranium from Uzbekistan was signed.
- An agreement for a line of credit of $200 million from India for financing housing and social infrastructure projects in Uzbekistan.
- First-ever India-Central Asia Dialogue held at the level of foreign ministers in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Analyse the major areas of cooperation between India and Central Asian countries. Also examine if India is well placed to compete with Russia and China in the region to play an important role in security matters in the region. (200 Words)
India and the Central Asian region have historical links. While the relationship in contemporary times have been weak, there is a renewed thrust on co-operation between India and the Central Asian Region (CAR) countries. The major areas of cooperation are –
- Energy – Energy is the most important area of co-operation. The CAR countries have an abundance of energy resources. India has been in negotiations for more than a decade now to ensure access to gas reserves of Turkmenistan through the TAPI pipeline.
- Security – India and the CAR countries have a shared interest in the stability of Afghanistan and counter-terror initiatives.
- Trade – The trade between India and CAR is roughly $1 billion compared to $50 Billion of China. Hence, there is a huge potential for increasing the trade relationship between the two countries.
- Drug trafficking– Tajikistan is gateway for afghan drugs to Central Asia. This money is used for funding terror activities against India
Due to reasons of geography, India is at a disadvantage compared to Russia and China to play a significant role in security matters in the region. However, it has a few advantages –
- The CAR countries do not like the excessive Russian influence and are also wary of increasing Chinese economic dominance. In such a situation, an assertive India can play the role of a balancer.
- India already has an overseas air base at Farkhor in Tajikistan. This would help India co-operate in security issues.
- India has been focusing on ensuring operationalisation of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) through Chabahar port in Iran to improve access to Central Asia.
Economically, militarily as well as geographically, India is at a disadvantage
compared to Russia and China. However, India’s strong democratic tradition and a
tradition of respect for other countries along with converging interests with the
Central Asian Republics might give it an edge.
Critically analyse the nature of India’s engagement and its mutual cooperation with the Central Asian countries and also comment if its “Connect Central Asia” policy has lived up to its expectations. (200 Words)
India has traditionally attached great importance to its relations with Central Asia. But, unfortunately, the relationship despite close historical & cultural contacts has not progressed to the desired extent.
- Unstable situation in Afghanistan and a highly problematic India-Pakistan relation have deprived India from the benefit of relations with Central Asia. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI) would be a game-changer if it materializes. But slow progress on this.
- Iran which provides alternative access to Central Asia. However, India-Iran relationship for the last decade or so has not progressed well. The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which would pass through Iran, is still underdeveloped and requires huge investment. India has also been slow in realizing the potential of the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran.
What should be done?
- India has come up with a “Connect Central Asia policy” (2012), which includes elements such high level visits, strategic partnerships, comprehensive economic engagement, partnership in the development of energy and natural resources. Development of potential in medical field, education, e-networks, land connectivity etc. The implementation of the policy needs to be speeded up.
- India needs to change its approach to Central Asia and show greater proactivity. We must shed piecemeal approach to Central Asia. India-Central Asia Trade is near $ 700 million as compared to China‘s $ 46 billion. This will require dealing with Central Asia not only at the bilateral level but also at a collective level. India could consider setting up an India-Central Asia Forum (on the lines of India-Africa Forum) to deal with the region in a holistic fashion
- Develop Chabahar port on priority. India needs to move quickly to invest $ 100 million
- Invest in infrastructure in Iran to make INSTC effective.
- Education and medical field provide an excellent opportunity for India to showcase its soft power.
- A forum of India and CAR think tanks should be set up.
- To institute and strengthen defence and security dialogue with Central Asian countries.
Analyse the importance of Central Asian countries in India’s
fight against terrorism. (200 Words)
There is an increase in radicalism and recruits into terrorist outfits globally. India with a large Muslim population must seek ways to insulate itself from such threat. An active engagement with CAR would be a step in the right direction.
- Pakistan’s inability to contain terrorism and Afghanistan’s growing possibility of falling into the influence of radical forces has led to create reasons for India to seek new partners in its fight against terror. CAR known for its moderate practice of Islam will be a viable partner.
- The recent trend of growing number of recruits from the CAR region and its proximity to instable west Asia and Afghanistan makes the region vulnerable. A stable CAR would help in containment of growing radicalism and its spread further east to India.
CAR has an important geo-strategic position serving as a gateway to Eurasia. A proactive engagement with CAR is in the interest of both India and the CAR. Economic development will help contain radicalisation in CAR. India can engage in counter terrorism strategies, development of the INSTC, the TAPI pipeline and work on the connect central Asia policy 2012 for a more stable CAR.