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China- Central Asia and India

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: International Relations


Source: IE

 Context: China convened a meeting (online) of trade ministers of the grouping known as C+C5.



It constitutes China and the five Central Asian republics, namely Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan.


China and Central Asia:

  • China shares a long history of trade, culture, and people-to-people links with the Central Asian region, which lies on the ancient Silk Route.
  • Modern China’s involvement with the region began with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
  • Diplomatic relations were established in 1992, and China’s relationship with the region was institutionalised as the Shanghai Five, the forerunner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).


Mutual benefits
For ChinaFor C5
Central Asia is a readymade market for cheap exports and gave China overland access to markets in Europe and West Asia.

The region is resource-rich, with massive gas and oil reserves, and strategic minerals such as uranium, copper, and gold.

China also had another priority in its relationship with these countries – to ensure peace in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, which forms its frontier with Central Asia.

The BRI plays a critical role as a transit hub for China’s trade with Europe.

Chinese investments helped to upgrade Soviet-era infrastructure and carry out development works in these countries.

President Xi launched his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a modern version of the Silk Road, during his 2013 visit to the Kazakh capital Almaty.

Beijing has also pumped billions of dollars in investments that cover projects from oil and gas exploration, rail, road and seaport connectivity to digital technologies and green energy.

Access to the Pacific Ocean and East Asia to the landlocked region.

China, unlike the West, asks no questions about their governance or human rights record.


Friction points between China and Central Asia:

  • Beijing’s targeting of the Muslim population of Xinjiang has triggered resentment in these countries, where Islam is the principal religion.
  • The increasing presence of Chinese workers and rapid land acquisitions by China in these countries has led to public protests.


China’s ‘Grand Plan’ for Relations:

  • The region is economically dependent on Russia, which is also Central Asia’s net security provider.
  • Russia’s trade with these countries has increased over the last year, as it attempts to find substitutes for imports from Europe.
  • Russia also has a huge migrant population of Central Asians who bind the region to it in economic dependency.
  • Russia and China are now competing for the title of the top trading partner in the area. The trade between China and the five countries reached $70.2 billion last year.
  • Beijing is making use of Russia’s preoccupation in Ukraine to push Moscow out of its own strategic backyard.
  • The Ukrainian invasion has given rise to fears (among Central Asian countries) that a security relationship with Moscow could prove to be a double-edged weapon.


India and Central Asia:


  • While India has trading ties with these countries, it is hindered by the absence of a land route to Central Asia, with Pakistan denying its passage and Afghanistan being uncertain territory after the Taliban takeover.
  • The Chabahar port in Iran offers an alternative route, but it is not fully developed yet.
  • Also, India’s relationships in the region (including in the SCO) remain security-driven.
  • There have been suggestions that India should provide connectivity for people and trade in Central Asia through “air corridors”, as it had done for Afghanistan.
  • As a first, New Delhi made its biggest outreach to Central Asia, when the PM of India hosted a virtual summit of the C5 last year.
  • New Delhi’s leadership of the SCO this year may provide it with an opportunity to diversify relations with this strategic region.


Insta Links:

India-Central Asia