India is keeping an eye on Central Asia

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News: India has invited five Central Asian countries – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – as guests for the Republic Day parade on January 26.

Read here: About India and Central Asia relations
Why has Central Asia become important for the region now?

Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has made Central Asia a prominent player in the region. A firm footing in the region is needed to gain leverage over the Taliban. Central Asia also has vast untapped resources in oil, coal, etc. Geopolitical rivalry as Regional and extra-regional powers are increasing presence in the region in the new Great-game.

Read here: India-Central Asia Dialogue: Six nations call for ‘immediate’ aid for Afghans

The USA also hopes to create a central-Asia axis to contain China and Russia. Economically, the centre is shifting from west to east, which is evident in the new silk route and inroads of BRI (China) in the region.

What should India do?

It should look beyond non-alignment and focus on the big-picture of Central Asia. Since India has no direct access to Central Asia, the support of Russia and China becomes essential. Due to this, India’s membership of SCO and BRICS are welcome steps.

India should also resume the India-China dialogue with the assistance of Russia. This is important for Russia and China also, as Afghanistan falls within the First Circle of their national security agenda.

India should also look to open TAPI and IPI gas pipeline projects. Russia can act as a guarantor, and China would also benefit from the normalization of India-Pakistan relations.

Read here: Courting the stans: India’s outreach to central Asia is vital to counter the China-Pakistan axis

India could also undertake the completion of a 600-KM railway line from Ghurian (near Herat) across northern Afghanistan. This would also facilitate cargo movement from Chabahar to Central Asia and beyond.

The tools like Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) are losing steam and new initiatives like logistics, regional and international transport, free trade agreements need to be brought in the Central Asia century.

Read Here: India quest for a road to Central Asia
What do India’s recent moves signal?

There are challenges in meeting the “4Cs” concept, but the India-Central Asia dialogue and invite on 26th January shows that India has activated the regional diplomacy.

Read here: Recent developments in India-Central Asia relations

Source: This post is based on the article “India is keeping an eye on Central Asia” published in Indian Express on 22nd December 2021.

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