Central Asia Meet

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    • In their first-ever summit meeting held India and the five Central Asian countries of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyz Republic have decided to form a joint working group on Afghanistan, while agreeing to a “common approach” when dealing with the Taliban regime there.

    About

    • The India-Central Asia summit that marked 30 years of diplomatic relations, came two days after a similar China-Central Asia Conference was held.
      • China offered $500 million in assistance and pledged to ramp up trade to $70 billion from the present levels of about $40 billion a year.

    Major Highlights of the meeting

    • Delhi Declaration: India proposed a number of high-level exchanges between the two sides, including bi-annual summits, and annual meetings of the Foreign, Trade and Cultural Ministers and Secretaries of Security to “strengthen cooperation in the areas of political and development, partnership, trade and connectivity, culture and tourism and security.
    • Central Asia Centre: There is also a plan to build a “Central Asia Centre” in New Delhi.
    • Chabahar port project: They also announced two “Joint Working Groups” (JWGs) on Afghanistan and the Chabahar port project.
    • Consensus on inclusive govt in Afghanistan: They reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan, while emphasizing the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.
      • They reaffirmed the importance of UNSC Resolution 2593 which unequivocally demands that Afghan territory not be used for sheltering, training, planning, or financing terrorist acts, and called for concerted action against all terrorist groups.
    • Focus on connectivity, trade: India and the Central Asian member countries of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) as well as the Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor called upon the other Central Asian countries to consider joining the connectivity initiatives for boosting trade and economic cooperation.
      • They also decided to include Turkmenistan’s Turkmenbashi port on the Caspian Sea within the framework of the INSTC.
    • Importance of TAPI pipeline: Conceived in the 1990s, the TAPI project entails setting up of a 1,814-km long trans-country pipeline. Through it, it is projected that India will be receiving 33 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan.
    • Terrorism and drug trafficking: India and Central Asian countries are committed to combating the menace of terrorism and drug trafficking.
      • Joint counter-terrorism exercises will be held between India and interested Central Asian countries.
      • They also called on the international community to strengthen the United Nations-led global counter-terrorism cooperation and fully implement the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards.

    Issues/ Challenges

    • Overcoming the lack of land connectivity: between India and Central Asia’s land–locked countries was one of the main issues of discussion.
    • The TAPI project: which was inaugurated in 2015, has run into issues over India-Pakistan tensions and the situation in Afghanistan.
    • Increasing concern over the human rights and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan: both India and Pakistan have been holding their own engagements with key partners in the region and beyond.
    • Difference of opinion: While India is reaching out to the Central Asian countries that have high stakes in the stability of Afghanistan, Pakistan is trying to rally the support of Islamic countries.

    Significance of the meeting

    • Further development of mutual connectivity: is essential for enhanced trade and commerce between India and Central Asian countries in the context of their land-locked nature and lack of overland connectivity with India.
    • Connectivity projects: The Leaders emphasized that connectivity projects deserve priority attention and could be a force-multiplier for trade and economic cooperation and contacts between countries and people.
    • Trade and Commerce: The leaders discussed possibilities of increasing Indian trade with the region beyond the currently low levels of about $2 billion.
      • Welcoming options over sea provided by Iranian ports including the Chabahar port terminal managed by Indian and the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) through Bandar Abbas that is promoted by Russia and Iran, and which is due to include both Chabahar and Turkmenistan’s Turkmenbashi port.
      • With regard to trade, it was decided to focus on sectors like pharmaceuticals, information technology, agriculture, energy, textiles, and gems and jewelry among others.
    • They also stressed on the importance of the TAPI gas pipeline project: that runs from Turkmenistan’s Galknyshk oil fields near Marv through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India, but did not record any support from India on the project.
    • They also agreed to encourage direct contacts: between Indian states and the Regions of Central Asian countries.
      • They also supported gradual restoration of the tourism and business ties between India and Central Asian countries.

    Central Asia Region

    • Region Comprises Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
    • Bounded by: 
      • West: Caspian Sea
      • East:  Border of western China.
      • North: Russia 
      • South: Iran, Afghanistan, and China.

    • Key Features:
      • 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.
    • Fergana Valley:
      • Most of Uzbekistan is desert. Fergana in eastern Uzbekistan is a fertile valley fed by two rivers, Naryn and Kara Darya, and flanked by Tien Shan in the North and Gissar mountains (part of the Pamir Range) in the South. 
      • Ferghana was and still is, the food bowl of Central Asia.
      • In 1494, at only 12 years of age, Babur,the founder of the Mughal Empire  succeeded his father , Umar Mirza Shekh as ruler of Fergana, in present-day Uzbekistan.
      • In 1526, Zahiruddin Mohammad Babur crossed the Pamirs and the Hindukush ranges and came through the Khyber Pass to Panipat.

    • India was among the first countries to recognize the five Central Asian states.

    Source: TH