India’s relation with Central Asia has a long history. The two regions have shared deep cultural linkages with each other over two millennia in terms of people to people contact, trade, and commerce.
The close trade and cultural linkages between the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, whose beginnings can be traced to the Indus valley civilization, tapered after India’s partition in 1947 as New Delhi found itself without a direct land corridor to the region. This meant that goods from India bound for the Central Asian region, instead of going through Pakistan and Afghanistan, would have to take much longer routes which usually involved the sea route to Iran and then overland through Iran, rendering New Delhi’s exports to the region less competitive.
Despite these economic and trade disadvantages, India’s close political relations with the Soviet Union helped ensure continued diplomatic ties with Central Asia in the decades after India’s independence. As the Soviet and Cold War era came to an end in 1991, India, the only non-communist nation with a diplomatic outpost in Central Asia, found itself in an advantageous position to strengthen ties with the newly independent Central Asian Republics : Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Geo Strategic importance of Central Asia
- Central Asia is strategically positioned as an access point between Europe and Asia and offers extensive potential for trade, investment, and growth.
- Central Asia is not a part of India’s immediate neighborhood and therefore it doesn’t share borders with India, the issue of connectivity between the two regions becomes of paramount importance.
Geo economic Importance of Central Asia:
- The region is richly endowed with natural resources like crude oil, natural gas, gold, copper, aluminum, and iron.
Security Importance of Central Asia
- Central Asian region is located close to the conflict prone area of West Asia and Afghanistan. There are very high chances of any security threat spreading into the Central Asian region.
- To tackle the challenge of terrorism, narcotics trafficking and arms smuggling.
- Religious extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism continue to pose challenges to Central Asian societies as well as regional stability.
India and Connect Central Asia policy
- The Central Asian region is considered to be the part of India’s “extended neighborhood.” Due to increasing presence of China, India formulated its Connect Central Asia Policy in 2012 which is a broad-based approach including political, security, economic, and cultural connections.
- The primary goal behind the Connect Central Asia policy was re-connecting with the region which has a long shared history with India.
- The key elements of this policy cover many important issue areas, including political cooperation, economic cooperation, strategic cooperation, regional connectivity, information technology (IT), cooperation in education, people-to-people contact, medical cooperation, and cooperation in regional groupings.
Areas of Cooperation
- Energy is the most important area of co-operation. The CAR countries have an abundance of energy resources.
- Kazakhastan is one of the first countries with which India launched civil nuclear cooperation.It has been supplying nuclear fuel to Indian nuclear plants since 2010.
- The TAPI project ,a trans-country natural gas pipeline from Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan is as an important to connect energy rich Central Asia with energy starved South Asia.
- It contains vast hydrocarbon fields both on-shore and off-shore in the Caspian Sea which homes around 4 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves and approximately 3 percent of oil reserves.
Security and Defense
- Security, stability and prosperity of Central Asia is imperative for peace and economic development of India. Central Asia comprises our ”extended neighborhood”, it deserves much greater attention than it has received so far.
- India and Central Asian countries have a shared interest in the stability of Afghanistan and counter-terror initiatives
- India conducts annual military exercises with some Central Asian countries .
- ”Khanjar” is annual joint military exercise between India and Kyrgystan.
- “Kazind” is annual joint military exercise between India and Kazakhastan
India recently joined the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement ( SCO ) a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 . India will get an opportunity to play its due role in stabilising the situation in Afghanistan which is assuming disturbing proportions on account of expanding the power of Taliban.
Benefits of it to India?
- It provides another venue for engagement with China and Pakistan, building up trust through cooperation.
- It will help India fulfil its aspiration of playing an active role in its extended neighbourhood as well as checking the ever growing influence of China in Eurasia.
- India will get an opportunity to play its due role in stabilising the situation in Afghanistan which is assuming disturbing proportions on account of expanding the power of Taliban.
- Promotion of India’s economic integration with the Central Asian republics, which is in line with India’s Connect Central Asia policy. Member countries of the grouping are rich in energy resources – both hydrocarbons and uranium.
- India’s potential participation in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be an added advantage to make this partnership more fruitful.
- Development Cooperation between India and Central Asia has focused on Lines of Credit that financed development and manufacturing projects
- The training programs under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, which started in the early 1990s, continue to flourish in the region.
- Grants to Tajikistan have included funding to rehabilitate and modernise the Varzob-1 Hydro Power Plant through the Indian Public Sector Units Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.
- India has focused on providing basic training and skill development to local people through tool room training centres.
- There are plans to set up a medical and educational E-Network for the five countries in the Central Asian region based on the model of the Pan African e-Network, which provides remote medical and educational support to hospitals and universities in African countries
Trade and Investment potential
- The economic development of Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, leads to development of sectors like IT, pharmaceuticals and tourism.
- India has expertise in these sectors and deeper cooperation will give a fresh impetus to trade relations with these countries.
- Kazakhastan is India’s largest trade and investment partner in Central Asia
- The “people-to-people” contact has been a defining feature of India’s Connect Central Asia Policy.
- Many students from Central Asia come to India for higher studies because India provides higher education at marginal cost when compared to European and American universities.
- Indian cultural diversity has been extremely popular in the region since the time of the USSR.
- People in Central Asia listen to Hindi music and watch Indian Movies from Bollywood.
- Development of the International North-South Transport Corridor(INSTC) . INSTC is a multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
- Becoming a member of Ashgabat Agreement. The Ashgabat agreementis a multimodal transport agreement between India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Oman, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for creating an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. The agreement came into force in April, 2016.
- Lack of direct access to Central Asia: India to reach Central Asia, the shortest route goes via Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s hostility with India remains problematic for India to connect Central Asia.
- The unstable situation in Afghanistan and a highly problematic India-Pakistan relation have deprived India from the benefit of relations with Central Asia.
- Chinese presence: central Asia is part of Silk Road Economic Belt (BRI) initiative.India could not match the deep pockets of china.
- India’s role in Central Asia is restricted by the involvement of major powers in the region.
- Afghanistan remains a challenge especially after the withdrawal of US troops.
- Growing axis of Russia-China-Pakistan would limit India’s presence in Central Asia.
- The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) andIran-Pakistan-India (IPI)pipelines projects are not moving smoothly due to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- There is growth of radicalism in recent times especially among the youth.
India-Central Asia relations have not achieved its fullest potential because
- Adequate attention was not given from India’s side on developing relations.
- India does not share physical borders with any of the Central Asian states.
- Trade has been conducted with Central Asia through China, which is time consuming and expensive.
India enjoys close, friendly and historical ties with Turkmenistan. ‘Turkmen Gate’ built in Delhi in memory of great Turkmen Saint Shams-ul-Arifeen Shah Turkmen Bayabani, who is believed to have lived in India during 13th Century, bears testimony to this friendship. In modern times bilateral relations have been strengthened by regular high-level visits
India and Turkmenistan cooperate under the India-Central Asia Dialogue mechanism as well, last iteration of which was held in October 2020.
Indian Cinema and TV serials are popular with Turkmen people. Similarly, Indian music also holds a special place in the hearts of Turkmen people. Indian film festivals are held on regular basis in different cities in Turkmenistan. ‘India Cultural Week’ including exhibition, dance performance, film and food festival was celebrated in Ashgabat in May 2017 to mark 25th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between India and Turkmenistan. An Indian Tabla group visited Turkmenistan for participation in International Scientific Conference and festival “Ancient Cradle of Musical Art” organized by State Cultural Centre of Turkmenistan in April, 2018. A 14-member group “Bollywood Rockers” performed in Turkmenistan in August 2019. An 11-member Turkmen Cultural Folk Group “Galkynysh” visited India to participate in the International Folk Dance and Music Festival in December 2018.
Traditional Medicine and Yoga Centre:
Central Asia’s first Yoga and Traditional Medicine Centre was inaugurated by Hon’ble PM of India in Ashgabat in July 2015. Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda Expert have been deputed to the centre from India and offer classes / consultations to interested people.
India provides training for Turkmen nationals under its ITEC programme. Since the inception of the programme for Turkmenistan in 1994, over 400 Turkmen nationals have been trained in various courses. In addition, India provides ICCR Scholarships to students from Turkmenistan to pursue graduation, post-graduation and Ph. D. There are currently over 300 Students from Turkmenistan pursuing their higher education in various reputed universities in India. In 2010, a Hindi Chair was established by India in Azadi Institute of World languages, Ashgabat where Hindi is being taught to university students.
Air links with Turkmenistan:
Turkmenistan Airlines operated 3 direct flights to New Delhi and 6 flights to Amritsar a week which are currently suspended due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Indian community in Turkmenistan:
There are very few Indian nationals in Turkmenistan. Most are semi-skilled workers employed in construction sector. There are also a few engineers, professionals and technicians working in oil and gas sector. There are no Indian Associations or Indian students in Turkmenistan.
- India – Uzbekistan relations are deeply rooted and go back far beyond the centuries.
- This served as a solid foundation for the development and strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres.
- India was one of the first countries to recognize the state sovereignty of Uzbekistan
- Indian companies in Uzbekistan operate in a wide range of sectors, from wholesale, retail and manufacturing to petroleum, chemicals textiles, leather, agriculture, construction and service industries.
- In the last six months, trade turnover between the two countries has reached USD 135 million.
- Uzbekistan consider India as one of the most important partners in Asia.
- For India, which is hoping to find firm allies in Central Asia, Uzbekistan can serve as an important foothold as the country shares its border with Afghanistan.
- Uzbekistan is militarily very strong and is therefore very important from the security point of view for India.
- Both countries are strategic partners and is important for India’s security, connectivity and counter terrorism efforts.
- Uzbekistan has large reserves of gas, uranium and gold.
- It is one of the biggest uranium exporter in the world; it will be a key player in India’s plan to procure nuclear fuel to create a strategic uranium reserve.
- A large number of Hindi speaking people are present in Uzbekistan
- In Tashkent there is a school named after Lal Bahadur Shastri, and also there are streets of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
- There is sharp increase of number of the Indian tourists to Uzbekistan. Monuments of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Shakhrizyabs are listed in the cultural heritage of UNESCO.
- Both countries share similar positions on many key regional and international issues.
- In the political sphere, they closely cooperate in struggling against international terrorism, religious extremism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and other challenges and threats to security.
- Both actively cooperate within the framework of international organizations, such as the UN, SCO and others.
- Also support each other’s initiatives.
- Uzbekistan supports the permanent membership of India in the UN Security Council.
- It cooperates with India in addressing the Afghan crisis.
- Both have great interest in close cooperation between our parliaments.
- Uzbekistan want to study India’s experience in parliamentarism.
- Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) provides good opportunity to further develop bilateral cooperation.
Uzbekistan President Visit to India
- Recently Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s made his first ever state visit to India.
- India and Uzbekistan inked 17 agreements including military cooperation, people-to-people ties, and business.
- India and Uzbekistan have set a bilateral trade target of $1 billion by 2020.
- India will also provide a Line of Credit of $200 million for low cost homes and other such social infrastructure projects in Uzbekistan.
- Both India and Uzbekistan have announced that they will jointly work together and strive for a stable, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan.
Concerns / Challenges
- The volume of trade and investment between Uzbekistan and India does not correspond to the potential of both countries.
- There is lot of untapped reserves.
- India has not improved air links with the country.
- China has already built a strong presence in Central Asia.
- Expanding cooperation in areas as information technology, programming, automobile industry, metallurgy, pharmaceutics, chemical, light industry, banking system etc.
- Signing an Agreement on preferential trade regime between both countries.
- India can exchange best practices in various fields of economics and technical cooperation.
- Given the huge number of unique historical and cultural monuments in Uzbekistan and India as well as India’s potential in medicine, great opportunities exist in cooperation in the fields of tourism and medical tourism.
- Need to intensify cooperation between our universities and exchange of students.
- Further expansion of the mutually advantageous interaction in the field of air transport.
- Joint efforts of Uzbekistan and India on use of Iranian ports will have positive effect on mutual trade turnover and correspond to the interests of both countries.
India and Kazakhstan have inked a Strategic Partnership treaty in 2009, and a Defence and Military Technical cooperation 2015. The two countries have several projects in hydrocarbon, education, pharmaceutical and other sectors.
India-Kazakhstan bilateral relations
- India was among the first countries to recognize the five Central Asian states. It established diplomatic relations with them after they gained independence in 1990s.
- India now considers the Central Asian countries as part of its ‘extended and strategic neighbourhood’.
- Trade: Kazakhstan is the most resource-rich country in Central Asia and is also India’s largest trade and investment partner. Total bilateral trade amounted to USD 1.2 bn between the two countries.
- Kazakhstan has a civil nuclear deal with India to provide the highly demanded uranium
- Defence Cooperation: According to the Ministry of Defence, on April 9, 2021, the two ministers met in New Delhi and the focus of the talks was on the bilateral defence cooperation, capacity building, training and military exercises.
- And both agreed to explore the possibility of defence industrial collaboration.
- Indian companies have been in talks with Kazakhstan defence industries for co-production and co-development in defence production.
- Space Cooperation: Both countries are in discussion on the possibility of developing a space communication system (satellite) KazSat-2R. 0. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and National Space Agency of Kazakhstan are in discussions to develop a satellite jointly and a possible launch through the agency later on. 1. Kazakhstan is host to the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome.
- Military exercises: A joint military exercise between India and Kazakhstan on counterinsurgency operations in mountainous terrains called KAZIND took place in 2019.
- India’s Connect Central Asia Policy also has a forward-looking orientation which at the same time promotes India’s geo-strategic as well as geo-economic interests in the region.
- Ashgabat Agreement: India has acceded to the Ashgabat Agreement, an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf
- India and Kazakhstan actively cooperate under the aegis of various multilateral fora including CICA, SCO and the UN organisations
There is a need to enhance people-to-people cooperation with Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states. Acquiring a visa becomes a major hassle for academic communities, experts, businesspersons and tourists. The respective embassies of Central Asia and India should ease the visa-rules and ensure hassle-free travel to legitimate people. Travellers after all become the carriers of culture and tradition without a cost
Historically, India has had close contacts with Central Asia, especially countries which were part of the ancient Silk Route, including Kyrgyz Republic. During the Soviet era, India and the then Kyrgyz Republic had limited political, economic and cultural contacts. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Bishkek and Issyk-Kul Lake in 1985. After the independence of Kyrgyz Republic on 31 August, 1991, India was among the first to establish diplomatic relations on 18 March 1992; and the resident Mission of India was set up on 23 May 1994.
- Political ties with the Kyrgyz Republic have been traditionally warm and friendly.
- Kyrgyzstan supported India in securing full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and also supports India’s bid for permanent membership at UNSC.
- Both countries share common concerns on threat of terrorism, extremism and drug– trafficking.
- Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, the two countries have signed several framework agreements, including on Culture, Trade and Economic Cooperation, Civil Aviation, Investment Promotion and Protection, Avoidance of Double Taxation, Consular Convention
Assistance by Government of India.
- Government of India contributed US $ 2 million to Kyrgyzstan for holding SCO Summit in Bishkek in June 2019.
- IT center at Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transportation and Architecture, Bishkek; Potato processing plant at Talas; language laboratory at the Diplomatic Academy, Bishkek; tele-medicine links connecting six hospitals in Kyrgyzstan, Bhabhatron-II equipment and Imaging simulator for treating cancer patients are some examples of the technical assistance provided to the Kyrgyz side.
- Technical assistance under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Program, particularly in terms of human resources development, is the cornerstone of India’s economic involvement in Kyrgyzstan.
- More than 1274 professionals from Kyrgyzstan have received training in India since 1992. 80 ITEC slots were sanctioned for 2019-2020.
- India-Kyrgyz Republic bilateral trade during 2018-2019 was US $ 32.60 million.
- India’s exports to the Kyrgyz Republic was US $ 30.02 million , while Kyrgyz exports to India was US $ 2.59 million.
- Indian exports registered a growth of 8.75% on an year to year basis.
- Kyrgyz Republic’s share in India’s total global exports was 0.01%.
- India’s exports to Kyrgyz Republic among others comprise of readymade garments and textile products, pharmaceutical products, agrofood products (tea, coffee and spices),essential oils and cosmetics, perfumery, electric machines, footwear, ferrous and non ferrous metals.
- Kyrgyz Republic exports to India includes agrofood products(fruits and nuts), raw hides and skins, woolen products etc.
- There are around 20 Indian companies in the Kyrgyz Republic.
- There has been increasing interest among Indian entrepreneurs to explore business opportunities with the Kyrgyz Republic in sectors such as mining, agrofood, pharmaceuticals, textiles, gems and jewellery, IT etc
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Kyrgyz Republic on an official visit from 13-14, June 2019.15 agreements/documents including Bilateral Investment Treaty, Protocol amending Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Fiscal Evasion, Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in Health, Information and Communication Technology, defence cooperation were signed.
- The bilateral relations were raised to the level of Strategic Partnership.During the visit Prime Minister also announced a line of credit of US $ 200 million for financing development projects in the Kyrgyz Republic.
- A 5 year Road-map for Trade and Economic Cooperation was adopted during the visit of Prime Minister Modi in June 2019 ,aimed at creation of favourable conditions for accelerated growth of bilateral trade , diversification of products and increase in foreign investment.
- In general, there is appreciation of Indian culture. The Centre for Indian Studies set up in Osh State University in 1997 has been useful in providing an exposure to Indian culture and civilization to academicians and intelligentsia in this country.
- . The Center is running with help of volunteers and imparts training in English and Hindi languages, Yoga and Kathak dance.
- In March 2019, Yoga Caravan, Classical Indian dance and Vegetarian Indian cuisine festival was held in Naryn, Karakol and Bishkek to commemorate 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in collaboration with ‘Altyn Taj’-India-Kyrgyz Friendship Society.
Relations between India and Tajikistan have been traditionally close and cordial. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations on 28 August 1992, regular high-level visits between the two countries have further cemented the bilateral ties. Deep rooted historical and cultural linkages have helped expand and widen the relationship to a new level. Cooperation between the two countries encompasses all aspects of human endeavor with special focus on military and defense ties.
Cooperation in International Forums/initiatives
Indian and Tajikistan have cooperated closely in various multilateral fora. In 2020, Tajikistan extended support for India’s candidature for a nonpermanent seat in UNSC for the term 2021-22. Tajikistan has publicly supported India’s bid for UNSC permanent membership including in the joint statement issued on 8th October 2018 during the state visit of President Shri Ram Nath Kovind. Tajikistan strongly supported SCO Member status for India. India supported Tajikistan’s accession to WTO in March 2013. India has consistently supported Tajikistan’s proposals at UN on water related issues. India also supported Tajikistan’s candidature to ECOSOC.
Development & Aid Partnership
Since Tajikistan’s independence in 1991, India has played the role of a development and aid partner for Tajikistan
Developmental Project Assistance
- In 1995, India extended a credit line of USD 5 million to set up a pharmaceutical plant (Ajanta Pharma)
- With a grant of USD 0.6 million, a Fruit Processing Plant was established in Dushanbe by HMTT (I) in 2005
- With a grant of USD 0.6 million, an Information and Technology Centre (Bedil Centre) was commissioned in 2006. The project ran for full hardware cycle of 6 years and trained almost all first generation IT experts in government sector in Tajikistan.
- India set up a Modern Engineering Workshop and commissioned it on 02 June 2011.
- India undertook rehabilitation and modernization of a 1936 vintage Varzob-1 Hydro Power Station through Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).
- A project for setting up of computer labs in 37 schools in Tajikistan was completed
- , India shall be undertaking the construction of phase-I of a 8-lane highway from Chortut village to Ayni roundabout in Dushanbe
- India delivered USD 5 million worth of food assistance in 2001-02
- To overcome a crisis caused by an unprecedented harsh winter in January-February 2008, India gave a grant of USD 2 million (USD 1 million as cash assistance and USD 1 million in kind, such as power cables, generators and pump sets)
- In 2009, USD 200,000 cash assistance was given by India to overcome damage caused by floods in April-May 2009.
- After flashfloods in Kulyab province in May 2010, India provided USD 200,000 humanitarian cash assistance.
- After the outbreak of Polio in southwest Tajikistan, India provided 2 million doses of oral polio vaccine through UNICEF in November 2010.
- In 2015, India granted USD 100,000 as humanitarian assistance to Tajikistan for providing relief to the flood and mudslide-affected people of GBAO (Pamir) and Rasht valley.
- India provided USD 100,000 to Tajikistan in March 2017 as humanitarian assistance for natural disasters.
- In 2018, India gifted 10 Russian-made ambulances to various regions of Tajikistan
Connectivity, Trade & Economic Relation
- In December 2019, direct air connectivity between Delhi and Dushanbe was restored after almost one year when a Tajik private airline, M/S Somon Air started its operations.
- Since February 2020, Somon Air started operating a second weekly flight between Dushanbe and Delhi.
- Indian exports to Tajikistan mainly consist of pharmaceuticals, medical preparations, cane or beet sugar, tea, handicraft and machinery.
- Indian pharmaceutical products occupy approximately 25% of Tajik market.
- However, not all medical products are directly imported from India and some of it arrives in Tajikistan via Russia. Different types of ores, slag and ash, aluminum, organic chemicals, herbal oils, dried fruits and cotton are exported to India by Tajikistan
Private Investments and Projects
- A 5-star hotel constructed by M/s CHL Limited, India
- An Indian company KEC/RPG completed the construction of 116 km. long power transmission line from Sangtuda-1 Hydropower plant to Afghan border in October 2010 under an ADB financed project.
- BHEL supplied a 7 MW generator to the Tajik company “Pamir Energy” in 2011 under a commercial contract.
- Indian Company M/s Kalpataru bagged a contract worth approximately USD 22 million for construction of electric transmission lines under ADB financing and finished the project in early 2017
- Besides, there are other small private projects/companies/ clinics, which provide healthcare and other services in Tajikistan.
- Tajikistan has potential in hydroelectricity generation, power transport, mining, full chain of cotton processing, tourism, medical tourism to India
Cultural & People-to-People Relation
- India and Tajikistan share strong historical, cultural and linguistic ties.
- There is great liking for Indian culture and films and films and TV serials dubbed in Russian language are routinely shown on local TV channels.
- To further deepen and widen these cultural linkages, Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre in Dushanbe offers courses in Kathak&Tabla through teachers deployed by ICCR from India. The centre also offers Hindi language classes
- Yoga is very popular among local people in Tajikistan. The Indian cultural Center offers regular Yoga classes using local yoga teachers.
- Every year International Day of Yoga is celebrated not only by the cultural center but by many private individuals/yoga centres across various towns in Tajikistan. In 2020 ‘My Life My Yoga’ video blogging competition saw participation from Tajikistan yoga enthusiasts across two categories.
- Indian visa regime for Tajikistan is liberal. Visas are issued within one or two days. Vast majority of Tajiks travels on e-visa for tourism or medical treatment.
- Tajikistan has launched online visa regime including for Indian nationals. Indian Community in Tajikistan The total number of NRIs is estimated at about 1650, out of which more than 1450 are students pursuing MBBS course at the Avicenna Tajik State Medical University. The contribution of these students to Tajik GDP is approximately USD 9 million per year.
- 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.
- India, Iran and Russia had in September 2000 signed the INSTC agreement to build a corridor to provide the shortest multi-model transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and St Petersburg. ‘
- It is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight.
- Regions involved: India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
- From St Petersburg, North Europe is within easy reach via the Russian Federation. The estimated capacity of the corridor is 20-30 million tonnes of goods per year.
- The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.
- The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and etc.
Significance of the corridor:
- Conceived well before China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), INSTC will not only help cut down on costs and time taken for transfer of goods from India to Russia and Europe via Iran but also provide an alternative connectivity initiative to countries in the Eurasian region.
- This will also synchronize with the Ashgabat agreement, a Multimodal transport agreement signed by India, Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, for creating an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
Why India Can’t Bank on the International North-South Transport Corridor?
India might be compelled to recalibrate its strategy if plans for a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway make its International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) redundant with respect to its Central Asian outreach efforts.
What’s the issue?
PAKAFUZ proposal is a proposed 573km railway project that will link Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent through Afghanistan capital Kabul and Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar.
- This is expected to affect India as it was planning to expand its influence in Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port.
- The biggest worry for India now is that Afghanistan will now be much less reliant on the INSTC for access to the Indian Ocean due to its decision to participate in PAKAFUZ (which will essentially function as the northern branch of CPEC that can be described as N-CPEC).
- This will result in India being less able to “balance” Chinese influence in Central Asia, thereby compelling a further recalibration of its relevant strategy.
What lies ahead for India?
- Instead of concentrating on Central Asia, India would arguably do better devoting much more time, attention, and efforts to expanding its reach across the Afro-Eurasian Rimland of the Indo-Pacific where it has much more opportunities than in the Eurasian Heartland.
- Israel shared its transregional connectivity plans- the “Trans-Arabian Corridor” (TAC) with India back in December 2019. India should reconsider this.
- The seemingly forgotten joint Indo-Japanese Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) from a few years back could be revived.
- India is already proceeding apace with respect to Russia via the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) that Prime Minister Modi and President Putin announced during the former’s trip to the Far Eastern Russian city as the latter’s guest of honor for the 2019 Eastern Economic Forum.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization founded in Shanghai on 15 June 2001 by six countries, People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; later expanded to eight states, with India and Pakistan joining
- Also, the SCO counts four observer states, namely the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Mongolia
- Also, the SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
- It is an Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance
- It is the world’s largest regional organisation in geographic scope and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent, 40% of the world population, and more than 20% of global GDP
- The main objectives of the SCO are to
- strengthen relations among member states
- promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade, scientific-technical, cultural, and educational spheres as well as in energy, transportation, tourism, and environmental protection
- safeguard regional peace, security, and stability; and
- create a democratic, equitable international political and economic order
- The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese
- The SCO has been an observer in the UN General Assembly since 2005
- SCO Secretariat has also established partnerships with
- UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
- UN Office on Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT).
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization founded in Shanghai on 15 June 2001 by six countries, People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; later expanded to eight states, with India and Pakistan joining