Central Asia

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  • India and Mongolia: Modi on Ashoka’s Path

    India and Mongolia: Modi on Ashoka’s Path

    Nehru fought for Mongolia’s status at the United Nation. Today, Modi’s India has greater economic strength to nurture the relationship with Mongolia.

    May 13, 2015

    Manoj Kumar: What have been the achievements of India's ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy so far, and what are its future prospects?

    Meena Singh Roy replies: India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy is an attempt to augment India’s renewed linkages with the entire Eurasian region. Its various facets include enhancing India’s engagement in economic, political and strategic fields, in education, connectivity and in the areas of culture and people-to-people contact. Since the policy was announced just two years ago in 2012, it is too early to expect much in such a short time. However, there are some initiatives which are in the pipeline and some achievements as well. As part of policy implementation, following developments may be noted:

    1. There have been many high level visits from both sides to enhance the political engagement.
    2. For increasing the connectivity, there has been some forward movement in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project. In addition, India is also committed to investing in the development of Chabahar Port in Iran to enhance its connectivity through Iran and Afghanistan to the Central Asian Republics (CARs).
    3. India plans to set up a Central Asian University in Kyrgyzstan as well as medical centres in the region.
    4. In the energy sector, there has been a forward movement on TAPI which is expected to be operational by 2015 according to official sources. India’s ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has got 25 per cent stakes in the Satpayev Block in the Caspian Sea and is also cooperating in getting uranium from the region.
    5. Under its development partnership programme, India has embarked on contributing towards capacity building and human resource development in the Central Asian countries to bolster its engagement with the region. Today, IT centres of excellence are operational in Tashkent, Ashgabat, Dushanbe and Bishkek, with one in the pipeline in Astana.
    6. India has gifted a Fruit Processing Plant in Dushanbe in Tajikistan and a Potato Processing Plant in Talas in Kyrgyzstan. Some other significant projects in Central Asia are computerisation of post offices in Uzbekistan, an Entrepreneurship Development Centre in Tashkent and a Tool Room in Dushanbe. Under its ITEC programme, India has allocated 645 slots to Eurasia in 2012–13, out of which 435 were allocated to the CARs. This is among the most successful programmes and is deeply appreciated by the CARs.
    7. During the visit of President Emomali Rahmon to India from September 1-4, 2012, India, as part of its ongoing developmental partnership with Tajikistan, announced new development projects including an IT Centre of excellence; an e-network, including tele-education and tele-medicine; medical centres; language laboratories; an Entrepreneurship Development Institute; supply of agricultural machinery; and, implementation of a package on small development projects.
    8. In addition to the above initiatives, India is working on a number of flagship projects. It is working on setting up an e-network to connect all five CARs with the aim of delivering tele-education and tele-medicine. As part of its effort to further increase the connectivity, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation has since July 20, 2012 sanctioned fourteen flights per week for each of the CARs.

    The future prospects for this policy are immense. However, the biggest challenge is to ensure proper implementation of suggested projects and proposals. Most of the proposals are still in the pipeline and many of them will demand consistent follow up at the highest political level. The effective implementation of various proposals presupposes equal attention and cooperation from India’s Central Asian partners as well to make the ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy a success. At this point in time, it is too early to expect quick results from the policy.

    For further on the topic, please refer to my following publication:

    Meena Singh Roy, “India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ Policy: Building Cooperative Partnership,” Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, 8 (3), July–September 2013, pp. 301-316.

    Posted on May 15, 2014

    Central Asia: Democracy, Instability and Strategic Game in Kyrgyzstan

    Central Asia: Democracy, Instability and Strategic Game in Kyrgyzstan
    • Publisher: Pentagon Press

    Central Asia remains both stable and unpredictable after 20 years of its reemergence. The states here continue to undergo complex nation-building process, which is far from complete. The book is an attempt to provide an overview of political and strategic processes at work in the region by taking the case of Kyrgyzstan – tracing the events erupted since 2005 and more after 2010.

    • ISBN 978-81-8274-752-4,
    • Price: ₹. 995/-
    • E-copy available

    India and Central Asia: Need for a Pro-active Approach

    India and Central Asia: Need for a Pro-active Approach

    India has traditionally attached great importance to its relations with Central Asia. But, unfortunately, the relationship faces several constraints including the lack of direct access to Central Asia; the unstable situation in Afghanistan and a problematic India-Pakistan relation.

    October 14, 2013

    Manu Dev Jain asked: What is the importance of each of the five Central Asian countries for India?

    Rajorshi Roy replies: India and Central Asian Republics (CARs) - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - share deep civilisational ties. However, the importance of Central Asia for India is not merely cultural and historical. Being at the centre of the vast Eurasian land mass, one can always refer to Mackinder’s ‘Heartland Theory’ that dwelt upon the geopolitical importance of the Eurasian heartland, bounded by Volga in the west and Yangtze River in the east, and the Himalayas in the south and the Arctic Ocean in the north. Central Asia serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe, and is very rich in natural resources. It is, thus, geopolitically axial and economically offers a whole range of opportunities. However, due to lack of direct geographical connectivity, India along with other partner countries in the region is working on the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), among other options.

    In order to provide a fresh impetus to India’s ties with the CARs, the first India-Central Asia Dialogue, a Track-II initiative, was organised in Bishkek in June 2012. It was a significant step towards building a long-term partnership with the region. It was during this regional conference that the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed pronounced India’s new “Connect Central Asia” Policy. It is a broad-based approach, which encompasses political, economic and cultural cooperation between India and the CARs.

    India and the CARs also share common concerns on the issue of rising threat from terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking. The re-emergence of threat from the Taliban-Haqqani network in Afghanistan, the proposed Western military pullout by 2014, and growing religious radicalisation and sectarian violence within Pakistan, has raised serious questions about the stability of the region as a whole. India thus plans to further strengthen its cooperation with the CARs, especially on the counter-terrorism issue, within the framework of its “Connect Central Asia” policy.

    At a more specific level, the five CARs are important to India due to some of the following factors:

    Tajikistan’s importance for India lies in its geo-strategic location. While it shares borders with China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, it is also located in proximity to the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Moreover, developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan have serious security implications for both India and Tajikistan. In addition to its strategic location, Tajikistan is rich in hydroelectric power and has the largest natural water resources in the region. Tajikistan also has rich mineral deposits. India and Tajikistan cooperate over a wide spectrum of issues - political, economic, health, human resource development, defence, counter-terrorism, science and technology, culture and tourism. Tajik military cadets and young officers have also been attending military training institutions in India.

    Kazakhstan’s importance for India needs to be viewed in the context of developments in and around Central Asia, India’s growing energy needs, Kazakhstan’s increasing role in the region and its immense hydrocarbon reserves. The two countries cooperate in various sectors like hydrocarbon, civil nuclear energy, space, information technology and cyber security, pharmaceuticals, health care, agriculture, and cultural exchange programmes.

    The importance of Turkmenistan for India lies in its enormous gas reserves, transit potential and geo-strategic location. India’s rising energy demand and the fact that it imports 70 per cent of its oil requirements, which is likely to go up to 90 per cent by 2025, has made Turkmenistan an attractive destination for India and in this context the TAPI gas pipeline is of great significance. Turkmenistan can also serve as a gateway to Central Asia through Iran. From India’s point of view, the North–South Corridor would not only help India in reaching out to Central Asia, but also enable it to transport goods at a cheaper cost to the European markets.

    Uzbekistan has been appreciative of India’s reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and supports India’s candidature for full membership in the SCO and UNSC. The two countries cooperate in diverse sectors, ranging from coal gasification, oil and gas, banking, pharmaceuticals, textiles, science and technology, standardisation, small and medium enterprises and tourism. There are more than sixty Indian companies operating in the country. Economic reconstruction projects and cooperation on counter-terrorism, in the backdrop of withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014, have been given priority in India-Uzbekistan ties.

    The visit of Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony to Bishkek in July 2011 has given a new impetus to the India-Kyrgyzstan ties. India has offered assistance to Kyrgyzstan in various areas. This includes sending a team to train Kyrgyz armed forces in UN peacekeeping operations and imparting English language skills. India and Kyrgyzstan have also signed MoUs for cooperation in research and development in high altitude base agriculture, plantation, animal husbandry, poultry, education, sports, culture, IT, health, S&T and food processing.

    Iran: India's Gateway to Central Asia

    Most of the discourses on India–Iran relations are either focused on cultural and civilisational links with Iran or its relevance as an energy-rich nation. Its transit potential in providing India with access to Central Asia has not received adequate attention.

    November 2012

    Mayank asked: What is the geo-strategic significance of Central Asian region for India?

    Meena Singh Roy replies: The geo-strategic significance of the Central Asian region for India needs to be viewed in the following context:

    Strategic location of the region - Countries of this region share borders with China, Afghanistan, Russia and Iran. Tajikistan is located in proximity to the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This region is seen as a Eurasian bridge, connecting countries of Asia to Europe.

    New regional security dynamics - Developments which are still unfolding in and around Central Asia, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan; the proposed withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan by 2014 and its regional implications; and the increasing problem of drug trafficking in the region. All these developments have direct security implications for India.

    India’s growing energy demands and its energy security policy.

    India’s new Connect Central Asia policy and its effort to enhance economic cooperation with all the Central Asian republics.

    Securing Central Asian Frontiers: Institutionalisation of Borders and Inter-state Relations

    This article develops the message that the artificially introduced administrative borders during the Soviet era, which were subject to the processes of re-delimitation after 1991, whether for reasons of security, administration, mutual distrust or the population's ethnic attachment, have become results and means of political manipulation and pressurisation. This has resulted in further pushing regional states to follow mutually exclusive policies.

    July 2012

    Harsha AH asked: What is the significance of Central Asian countries for India?

    Meena Singh Roy replies: Today, the importance of Central Asia for India is not merely civilisational and historical; it goes much beyond this. Central Asia serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe, and is rich in natural resources. It is thus geopolitically axial and economically offers whole range of opportunities. Both India and Central Asian Republics (CARs) share many commonalities and perceptions on various regional and world issues. There is enormous scope for pragmatic and profitable engagement between the two. The importance of CARs also lies in ensuring peace and stability in the region. However, India’s major limitation in this strategically important region is geographic non-accessibility. India does not share border with the CARs.

    The United States in Central Asia: Reassessing a Challenging Partnership

    This article focuses on the evolving place of the US in the Central Asian arena, analysing how US interests have changed in this region since the 1990s. It studies how strategic relations were transformed around the NATO Partnership for Peace, the growing cooperation in the Caspian Sea, and the building of a regional security architecture surrounding Afghanistan. It also analyses Washington's difficulties in promoting 'civil society' and the limits of the US economic engagement in the region.

    May 2011