AIR spotlight summary on “India – Kyrgyzstan Bilateral Relations”

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AIR spotlight summary on “India – Kyrgyzstan Bilateral Relations”.


Introduction

  • The president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev visited India. This visit comes after the visit of Tajikistan president Emomali Rahmon. Last year our Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited all the 5 central Asian Countries.
  • The ongoing engagement with Central Asia is going on since 1991-1992 after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the independence of these 5 countries. With Kyrgyzstan, India will be celebrating 25th anniversary of diplomatic relationship in March 2017. The visit of 2 presidents of central Asia is highly significant because the region of Central Asia is undergoing tremendous changes.

Importance of Central Asia for India

  • There are huge challenges the region is facing from Islamic extremism and ISIS. The visit is extremely important for India to catch up with this region on various issues of regional cooperation, terrorism, economic cooperation and larger issues of diplomacy at the global stage.

Chinese Influence in Central Asia

  • The Chinese have gone in a big way to make their presence in the region.
  • China is increasingly becoming more aggressive in the region and it has been a strong player because of its rising economic clout in the world stage. We see China investing heavily in Pakistan in the CPEC and looking for a foothold in the central Asian region. China is now on board for talks on the stability and peace in Afghanistan.
  • The Chinese assertiveness is the reflection of its power and its growing interests. Many years ago when US was rising, even it was assertive. Any major rising power will assert on the global stage, at the regional stage and every where they like to have their foothold. China is a typical case of how a new power is emerging in Asia.
  • In the case of Central Asia the Chinese have penetrated into the region economically, militarily and with its One Belt One Road initiative the Chinese have committed billions of dollars for the silk route project to connect China with the entire Eurasian region. Central Asia is a transit area for the entire transportation route. So china has huge stakes in Central Asia in many ways.
  • All the Central Asian countries and Russia have consented to the Chinese initiatives. This is where the challenge for India arises.

The issue of Connectivity

  • Connectivity has been the major issue between Central Asia and India because of absence of peace in Afghanistan and the hostile attitude shown by Pakistan. So India has been pursuing the connectivity issue with Iran earlier with Bandar Abbas and now with There is one more initiative called the International North South Corridor (INSC).
  • It is important for India to improve its connectivity because with the absence of connectivity the presence is always weak in terms of cost and distance of any exchange of commodities.
  • Unless we import energy and high value items like minerals and rare earth materials which are important for Make in India project the Chabahar project won’t be useful.

Importance of Afghanistan

  • The central Asian countries do not have much role to play in Afghanistan but Afghanistan is important for everyone. The Central Asian countries themselves face lot of internal problems in terms of terrorism and extremism. For example the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan is also present in Kyrgyzstan. Many of the regional outfits have connection with Taliban and Al-qaeda in Afghanistan.
  • There is always a potential threat from Afghanistan to Central Asia. The Central Asian countries are trying to get cooperation from India to deal with terrorism. So far Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are able to deal with terrorism. In future if the ISIS presence grows, the security will be a major challenge for these countries and therefore they are seeking cooperation with India to deal with terrorism.

Significance of India’s membership in SCO

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will give India the valuable framework to work together on issues like peace, stability and prosperity. Central Asia is always important for India. There are possibilities that the negative forces emerge in Central Asia who will be detrimental to India’s interest. So because of our interest we have sought to pursue full membership of SCO. Central Asia per se from economic perspective is not important for India, but it is hugely important from strategic and political point of view. Without SCO membership India would not know what is happening in Central Asia. When Pakistan is also becoming the member of SCO, it might raise many contentious issues like that in SAARC. So SCO membership is extremely important for India.
  • India can make economic contribution in terms of technology, investment and in terms of security and cooperation. Hopefully India is going to play a major role in SCO in coming years.
  • Instead of SAARC we might see SCO playing a much positive role in bringing India and Kyrgyzstan together.

 

India and Kyrgyzstan Relations

  • India and Kyrgyzstan have regular joint military exercises. In international diplomacy the military plays a huge role to improve relationship between countries. This brings us closer between the two militaries to understand each other and share their experiences. With SCO we may share experiences with other member countries also.
  • So far Central Asia has been extremely friendly towards India. During the legacy of Soviet Union, India had direct contact with Central Asian region. The point is today India do not have enough economic and political presence. It’s only about cultural good will that has not been able to convert into meaningful relationship between the two countries. The policy of Pakistan and China is to keep India and Kyrgyzstan separated.

Conclusion

India has its own share of history from the days of Kanishka. Buddhism was embedded through the silk route beyond Afghanistan and Central Asia. We cannot allow the relationship to be disconnected. If Russia’s relation with Pakistan improves then there is every danger that Central Asian countries will listen to Pakistan. That’s the major challenge for India and we have to be extra active to have a presence in the region so that our credibility and popularity remains very strong.