India-Central Asia meeting of NSAs

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    • India’s National Security Advisor recently chaired the first India-Central Asia meeting of NSAs and Secretaries of Security Councils in Delhi

    More about the meeting

    • About first India-Central Asia meeting of NSAs:
      • The meeting was the outcome of the India-Central Asia virtual summit held in January 2022, where Indian Prime Minister hosted leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and agreed to have security chiefs meet on a regular basis to discuss India’s “extended neighbourhood.”
      • Participants:
        • The NSAs of India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan participated in the meeting. 
          • Turkmenistan was represented by its ambassador in New Delhi
    • Highlights of the meeting:
      • Situation in Afghanistan & A joint communique:
        • A joint communique issued after the meeting said that the Security Advisors discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the security and stability of the region. 
        • They also reiterated strong support for a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan, emphasising respect for its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and urging non-interference in its internal affairs.
        • Countries spelled the need to ensure that terrorist groups don’t find safe haven there.
      • Transport & Connectivity:
        • Chabahar port & NSTC:
          • The participants supported India’s proposal to include the Chabahar port within the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor that connects Iran to Russia via Central Asia, 
        • Uzbekistan’s Termez Transport and Logistics Hub:
          • The communique noted Uzbekistan’s creation of the “Multifunctional Transport and Logistics Hub” in Termez that helped channel aid to Afghanistan.
      • TAPI Project:
        • Turkmenistan made a push for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan- India (TAPI) pipeline that was launched in 2016.
        • TAPI pipeline project has run into trouble over the Afghan conflict, and breakdown of India-Pakistan ties, and the NSAs agreed on the importance of TAPI in expanding connectivity.
      • Addressing individual efforts:
        • The countries gathered also noted 
          • India’s special conferences involving UNSC and NMFT (No Money for Terror) on countering terror financing, 
          • Kazakhstan’s work on the International Agency for Biological Safety, 
          • Kyrgyzstan’s efforts on climate change, and the 
          • Dushanbe declaration on border security cooperation to prevent terrorist movements.
      • Push for the adoption of UN-CCIT:
        • The communique also called for the early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), which India had first proposed in 1996, but has been held up for decades, primarily over differences on the definition of terrorism. 

    Significance:

    • First of its kind:
      • It is the first time that India is hosting the top security officials of the central Asian countries.
        • The NSAs will be meeting again under the rubric of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in India next year as well.
    • India’s relations with Central Asian countries:
      • India considers the Central Asian countries as the heart of Asia. 
      • The meeting coincides with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and the Central Asian countries.
      • These counties are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). 
        • This communique shows India’s efforts in taking forward this regional cooperation in a comprehensive manner.
    • Connectivity:
      • Central Asian countries remain a key priority for India to invest and build connectivity in the region. 
      • While expanding connectivity it is important to ensure that connectivity initiatives are transparent and participatory, with respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
    • Central Asia as a Land bridge:
      • Central Asia for India serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe and is rich in natural resources. 
    • Importance of Afghanistan for India:
      • India has intensified its engagement with the Taliban regime, with the head of the Indian Mission in Kabul meeting with its “Interim” Ministers to discuss restarting Indian projects in Afghanistan.
    • UN-CCIT:
      • India is expected to make a push for the CCIT and other formulations on terrorism this month as it ends its two-year tenure as member of the UN Security Council.

    Challenges 

    • Geographic non-accessibility: 
      • India’s major limitation in this strategically important region is geographic non-accessibility. India does not share borders with the CARs.
    • Lack of mutual trust: 
      • Land-locked Central Asian countries can benefit immensely by connecting with India’s vast market. 
      • Unfortunately, many connectivity options are not open to them due to the lack of mutual trust. 
    • Tensions with Pakistan and China: 
      • India’s  tensions with Pakistan mean there is no viable land route towards Central Asia.
    • Instability in Afghanistan: 
      • The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has severely set back India’s plans in Central Asia.

    Way ahead:

    • India is committed to taking its ties with Central Asia to the next level and floated a ‘four C’ approach focusing on commerce, capacity enhancement, connectivity, and contacts to further expand the cooperation between the two sides.

    Do you Know?

    • The Central Asia region (CA) comprises the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. 
    • It is a diverse region with a mix of upper-middle and low-income countries with major strategic importance due to their geographic location and natural resource endowments.

    Source: IE