India-Central Asia Relations – UPSC GS2

  • 3rd India- Central Asia dialogue held.
  • Regional Security Dialogue with Central Asian Republic (CAR) counterparts was also held recently to discuss Afghanistan.
Why does the Central Asian Republics are important for India?
CAR has massive natural resources like gas, uranium, etc. This can fuel India’s next phase of industrialization. Also, linking Iran’s Chabahar port with the International North-South Transport Corridor can give India direct access to Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.
India’s line of credit to improve connectivity:
  • Discussions have been held on India’s $1 billion Line of Credit for projects in Central Asia.  India’s connectivity initiatives are based on principles of transparency and respect for sovereignty. The formulation is used by India to oppose China’s opaque Belt and Road projects that have already seen countries fall into debt traps and sign away strategic assets.
How does instability in Afghanistan impacts CAR?
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan share land borders with Afghanistan, so instability directly affects these regions. Ethnic Tajik, Turk and Uzbek are significant minorities in Afghanistan and are the first to be impacted by the Taliban’s exclusionary ideology. Also, CARs fears the increase in rising of radical Islam, terrorism and drugs into their own territories.
What are the roadblocks in prospering India- Central Asian Republics (CAR) relations?
  • Russian continues to influence in CAR region and their government.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative and $100 billion trade have made it a central figure in the region.
  • The U.S. has also been seeking a foothold in the region, especially after Afghanistan.
  • India’s land connectivity to Central Asia is hampered by Pakistan. The alternative route, via Iran’s Chabahar, has also received a setback after the Taliban takeover of Kabul. The development of the Indian-managed Shahid Beheshti terminal continues to suffer due to the threat of American sanctions.
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:
  1. 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.
  2. Security – India and the CAR countries have a shared interest in the stability of Afghanistan and counter-terror initiatives.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 –
  1. 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.
  2. India already has an overseas air base at Farkhor in Tajikistan. This would help India co-operate in security issues.
  3. 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.
Related Questions:
  • 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)
  • Analyse the importance of Central Asian countries in India’s fight against terrorism. (200 Words)

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