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C+C5 Trade Ministers Meeting


Recently, China has conducted a meeting of trade ministers of the grouping known as C+C5 — China and the five Central Asian republics, namely Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding the China-Central Asia Engagement
  2. India’s Stake in Central Asia
  3. Way Forward

Understanding the China-Central Asia Engagement

  • The C+C5 summit held in January 2022 marked 30 years of diplomatic relations between China and Central Asian nations.
  • China has a long history of trade and cultural links with the region, dating back to the ancient Silk Route.
  • The region offers China a market for affordable exports and overland access to markets in Europe and West Asia.
  • Central Asia is rich in resources, with significant reserves of oil, gas, and strategic minerals such as uranium, copper, and gold.
  • China prioritizes its relationship with these countries to ensure peace in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, which forms its frontier with Central Asia.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative includes investments in oil and gas, transportation, digital technology, and green energy in Central Asia.
  • Although China’s investments have provided opportunities for economic growth, there is also resentment towards China due to its treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang and concerns about its increasing presence and land acquisitions.
  • Despite these concerns, Central Asian governments have not joined international campaigns against China’s treatment of its Muslim minority.
  • China is now the region’s primary trading partner, and there are talks underway for further transport and logistics projects linking all countries in the region to China’s seaports.

India’s Stake in Central Asia

Cultural Ties:
  • The Silk Route connected India with Central Asia from the 3rd century BC to the 15th century AD, creating old and deep cultural ties between the two regions.
  • India has exported Buddhism and Bollywood to Central Asia, influencing the region’s culture and traditions.
  • In December 2022, India hosted the first India-Central Asia meeting of national security advisors to strengthen their relationship and common interests.
  • India has renovated military bases in Tajikistan, which offers a strategic advantage against adversaries China and Pakistan, given its proximity to the Wakhan Corridor.
Extended Neighborhood Policy:
  • India’s Extended Neighborhood Policy (ENP) launched in 2014 seeks to build partnerships and economic cooperation with neighboring countries, emphasizing peace, stability, and prosperity.
  • India demonstrated its commitment to its ENP by engaging with Central Asian partners on a multitude of fronts in 2022.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):
  • India became a full member of SCO in 2017, joining Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to establish security relationships.
Connectivity Challenges:
  • India lacks a land route to Central Asia, with Pakistan denying it 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.
  • Air corridors have been suggested as a means to provide connectivity for people and trade in Central Asia, similar to India’s approach in Afghanistan.

Way Forward

  • Prioritize building long-lasting and reliable partnerships with Central Asian states.
  • Focus on establishing links through transit, trade, investment, and people-to-people connections.
  • Take advantage of the vulnerabilities in the region caused by crises such as the war in Ukraine and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
  • Joint counterterrorism efforts can help establish India as a consistent partner and monitor adversaries from a closer range.
  • Address issues beyond security to ensure the relationship with Central Asia is not susceptible to geopolitical, economic, or domestic pressure.
  • Emphasize regional stability, peace, and prosperity through mutually beneficial cooperation with neighbors.
  • Develop alternative routes for connectivity, such as air corridors, to overcome challenges posed by the lack of a land route to Central Asia.
  • Focus on economic cooperation to promote trade and investment in the region.
  • Increase people-to-people exchanges and cultural ties to strengthen India’s historical and cultural links with Central Asia.

-Source: Indian Express

April 2024