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 India’s Central Asia Outreach

Context:

National Security Advisor (NSA) hosted a meeting of his counterparts from five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan — in New Delhi on December 6. All countries except Turkmenistan sent their NSAs.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights about the Meetings of NSAs
  2. About Central Asia
  3. What is the genesis of India-Central Asia relations?
  4. About  National Security Advisoris

Key Highlights about the Meetings of NSAs

  • For a high-level security meeting, the NSAs of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan were in Delhi for the first time.
  • The gathering takes place on the same day as the 30th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between India and the Central Asian nations.
  • The security situation in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism coming from the Taliban-run nation were the main topics of discussion.
  • The NSAs agreed with India’s plan to incorporate Chabahar port into the INSTC (International North-South Transport Corridor), which would connect Iran with Russia via Central Asia.
  • During the summit, the leaders agreed to institutionalise the Summit mechanism by deciding to hold it biannually.
  • To assist the new structure, a secretariat for India and Central Asia would be established in New Delhi.
  • Discussions of the requirement for concerted action against “the misuse of new and emerging technology, arms and drug trafficking, abuse of cyberspace to promote misinformation, and unmanned aerial systems.”

About Central Asia

  • Central Asia is the central region of Asia, extending from the Caspian Sea in the west to the border of western China in the east.
  • It is bounded on the north by Russia and on the south by Iran, Afghanistan, and China.
  • The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.
  • All of these nations became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR.
  • On the east and south Central Asia is bounded by the western Altai and other high mountain ranges extending into Iran, Afghanistan, and western China.
  • Central Asia’s landscape can be divided into the vast grassy steppes of Kazakhstan in the north and the Aral Sea drainage basin in the south. About 60 percent of the region consists of desert land, the principal deserts being the Karakum, occupying most of Turkmenistan, and the Kyzylkum, covering much of western Uzbekistan.
  • The scarcity of water has led to a very uneven population distribution, with most people living along the fertile banks of the rivers or in fertile mountain foothills in the southeast; comparatively few live in the vast arid expanses of central and western Kazakhstan and western Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
  • The five largest ethnic groups in Central Asia are, in descending order of size, the Uzbek, Kazakh, Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz.

What is the genesis of India-Central Asia relations?

  • India’s relations with the Central Asian countries can be traced back to the ancient Silk Road, along which people, goods and ideas flowed.
  • During the period of the Kushan Empire, which spanned across the territories of modern Central Asia and India, the people-to-people contact, cultural and economic ties were flourishing.
  • The dissolution of the ancient Silk Road, the invasion of Central Asia by Russia and China and the Anglo-Russian rivalry has limited the exchanges between India and Central Asia.
  • Immediately after independence, India maintained limited ties with Central Asian countries because of the former’s excessive focus on the immediate neighbourhood, major powers in the international arena and other Afro-Asian countries.
  • This may be because of the lack of shared boundaries.
  • Following the USSR dissolution, the five Central Asian countries gained independence and India started to improve ties with them.
  • India was the only non-communist country with a diplomatic presence in the region.
  • It was also one of the first to accord diplomatic recognition to the newly independent countries.
  • Immediately after the formation of the Central Asian states, New Delhi signed agreements focusing on expanding Indian trade, investment and developmental assistance.
  • At present, Central Asia is considered to be a part of India’s extended neighbourhood.

What are India’s strategic interests in Central Asia?

  • Central Asia sits at the heart of Eurasia, making it strategically vital for countries like the US, China, Russia, Europe and India.
  • This is because it serves as a pivot for geopolitical transformations within the international arena.
  • Many countries are currently competing to increase influence and power over the region.
  • Through this region, countries like India and China can expand their markets throughout Eurasia.
  • Apart from its geostrategic position, Central Asia has been rich with natural resources – Turkmenistan with gas, Kazakhstan with gas and uranium, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with hydropower.
  • With a population of 33 million in the 1990s, this region is potentially a large market.
About National Security Advisoris
  • The National Security Advisoris the senior official on the National Security Council of India, and the chief adviser to the Prime Minister of India on national security policy and international affairs.
  • Ajit Doval is the current NSA, and has the same rank as a Union Cabinet Minister.
  • The post has high vested powers, so the NSA is a highly prominent and powerful office in the Government of India.
  • All NSAs appointed since the inception of the post in 1998 belong to the either Indian Foreign Service or to the Indian Police Service, and serve at the discretion of the Prime Minister of India.

-Source: Indian Express


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