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India’s relation with Central Asia has shared deep cultural linkages with each other over two millennia in terms of people to people contact, trade, and commerce. The close trade and cultural linkages between the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, whose beginnings can be traced to the Indus valley civilization, tapered after India’s partition in 1947 as New Delhi found itself without a direct land corridor to the region.

India pitched for “an integrated approach for regional connectivity and cooperation for the next 30 years” with the central Asian countries. Significance of Central Asian countries to India:

  • The Central Asian region (CAR) is considered to be the part of India’s “extended neighborhood.”CAR has become the site of great power tussles over energy resources in the recent past.The geostrategic position of CAR as an access point between Europe and Asia is of greater significance in terms of trade.China’s deep inroads in the Central Asian republics in terms of investment is also a concern.

  •  India’s engagement in the CAR:
  • India reset its ties with independent republics in Central Asia, a strategically critical region, post break-up of Soviet Region.India provided financial aid to the region and established diplomatic relations.The Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPA)was signed with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to stimulate defence cooperation and deepen trade relations.New Delhi’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy of 2012, aimed at furthering India’s political, economic, historical and cultural connections with the region.India signed MoUs with Iran in 2015 to develop the Chabahar port in the Sistan-Baluchistan province that was in the doldrums from 2003.

  •  Recent developments in India-CAR relations:
  • The External Affairs Minister attended the 6th Foreign Ministers’ Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Nur Sultan.India extended a credit line of $200 million for the support of development projects and signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) on High-Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP).

  •  Challenges faced by India in the relations with CAR:
  • India’s efforts were stonewalled by Pakistan’s lack of willingness to allow India passage through its territory.The growing geostrategic and security concerns regarding the BRI’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the violation of India’s sovereignty is another challenge.The Taliban re-establishing its supremacy over Afghanistan has also exposed the weaknesses of coalitions such as SCO.The SCO has been used by most member countries for their own regional geostrategic and security interests, increasing the trust-deficit and divergence within the forum.

  •  Way forward:
  • Most of the Central Asian leaders view India’s Chabahar portas an opportunity to diversify their export markets and control China’s ambitions.They have admitted New Delhi into the Ashgabat Agreement, allowing India access to connectivity networks to facilitate trade and commercial interactions with both Central Asia and Eurasia.

  •  Central Asian countries have been keen to have India as a partner as they have sought to diversify their strategic ties. India needs clear recalibration of its regional engagement with Central Asian countries.


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