India to propose biennial summit with Central Asia and secretariat in Delhi Read

The article originally appeared in The Economic Times

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

India to propose biennial summit with Central Asia and secretariat in Delhi Read

The maiden India-Central Asia Summit scheduled on January 27 is expected to see India proposing a Summit with the region every two years, creation of an India-Central Asia secretariat in New Delhi for better coordination and creation of ministerial-level platforms focusing on four areas including defence and security, trade and connectivity, among other issues.

The ‘India-Central Asia Centre’ here will act as the secretariat for the India-Central Asia Summit coordination, ET has learnt. This is aimed at creating institutional linkages and is based on India’s suggestion.

ET was the first to report that India would invite all five Central Asian leaders for the Republic Day as chief guests on the occasion of 30 years of creation of diplomatic ties and maiden bilateral summit. However, the leaders, including the Kazakhstan President who prepared for the trip, could not undertake the visit due to the pandemic and it was decided to hold the Summit virtually. ET was the first to report that the Summit could be held virtually on January 27.

The two sides are also expected to create ministerial-level platforms for engagement on political issues and development cooperation, trade and connectivity, culture and tourism and, defence and security, ET has learnt. Defence is an emerging area of cooperation with India hoping to build upon its current defence linkages with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Besides, India and Russia are working on joint projects in Central Asia in the areas of defence production and joint exercises, ET had earlier reported. During the India-Russia 2 + 2 meet in Delhi on December 6, both sides discussed proposals for joint projects in Central Asia, a region where Russia still has huge stakes including military pacts with three of the five countries. Moscow has been keen that New Delhi increases its footprint in the region.

There are also proposals to enhance linkages between business chambers and think tanks between India and the region. The Central Asian states have been seeking India’s assistance in IT, healthcare, pharmacy and education sectors. The Summit will also see a big push for optimum use of the Chabahar Port for better connectivity. Plans are afoot for effective use of the International North South Transport Corridor between India and the landlocked but resource region.

The current Afghan counter-terror partnership between India and Central Asia will gain in momentum in the backdrop of the developments in Afghanistan and recent terror attacks in Kazakhstan. Radicals from the Af-Pak Region were actively involved in the Kazakh terror attacks. All the Central Asian states, besides Russia, remain wary of the spillover of radicals and radical ideas, besides any civil war, in their regions and wider Eurasia.

The strong bonds between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union have contributed to New Delhi’s growing ties with the Central Asian region. India’s presence in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is also contributing to this.

The foreign ministers of India and the Central Asian countries met here last month to further the agenda. The Indian foreign minister made several trips to Tajikistan (SCO chair). Last November, India hosted the national security advisors of Central Asia besides Russia and Iran for the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan.

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