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PM summit with 5 Central Asian heads calls for joint group on Afghanistan, stronger ties

China held a summit with the leaders of Central Asian countries on January 25, at a very short notice, after India had announced its summit.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: January 28, 2022 6:44:26 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the first meeting of India Central Asia Summit, through video conferencing, in New Delhi. (PTI)

Two days after China held a virtual summit with Central Asian countries, India too stepped in and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for “an integrated approach for regional connectivity and cooperation for the next 30 years”.

He also flagged Afghanistan as a common concern and said that their “mutual cooperation has become even more important for regional security and stability”.

“We all have the same concerns and objectives for regional security. We are all concerned about the developments in Afghanistan,” Modi said at the first virtual summit with the Central Asian leaders. “In this context also, our mutual cooperation has become even more important for regional security and stability,” he said.

The virtual summit saw the participation of the five presidents — Kazakhstan’s Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Uzbekistan’s Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyz Republic. This was the first engagement of its kind between India and the Central Asian countries at the level of leaders.

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China held a summit with the leaders of Central Asian countries on January 25, at a very short notice, after India had announced its summit. China’s President Xi Jinping had offered USD 500 million in assistance to the region and had vouched to strengthen trade with the countries.

On Thursday, Modi underlined the three main objectives of the summit.

First, he said, “to make it clear that cooperation between India and Central Asia is essential for regional security and prosperity. From Indian point of view, I would like to emphasise that Central Asia is central to India’s vision of an integrated and stable extended neighbourhood.”

The second objective, he said, is to give “an effective structure to our cooperation. This will establish a framework of regular interactions at different levels and among various stakeholders.”

And, the third objective is “to create an ambitious roadmap for our cooperation”.

“Through this, we will be able to adopt an integrated approach for regional connectivity and cooperation for the next 30 years,” he said.

The summit is symbolic of the importance attached by the leaders of India and the Central Asian countries to a comprehensive and enduring India-Central Asia partnership.

The participation of the secretaries of National Security Councils of Central Asian countries in the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan held in New Delhi in November last year outlined a common regional approach on Afghanistan.

The summit is being held a day after Republic Day celebrations saw no foreign head of state or government as the chief guest. The leaders of the five central Asian countries were likely to be the chief guest, but the country saw a rise in COVID-19 cases which led to curtailed celebrations.

Modi underlined that the diplomatic relations between India and Central Asia countries have completed 30 meaningful years. “Our cooperation has achieved many successes over the past three decades. And now, at this crucial juncture, we must define an ambitious vision for the coming years as well. A vision that can fulfil the aspirations of our people, especially the younger generation, in the changing world,” he said.

In this context, Modi also underlined the importance of each of these countries.

Kazakhstan has become a vital partner for India’s energy security, he said, as he expressed condolences for the recent loss of life and property in Kazakhstan.

On Uzbekistan, he said, “Our state governments are also active partners in our growing cooperation with Uzbekistan. This includes my home state of Gujarat as well.”

With Kyrgyzstan, he said, “We have an active partnership with Kyrgyzstan in the field of education and high-altitude research. Thousands of Indian students are studying there.”

With Tajikistan, he said, “We have a longstanding cooperation in the field of security. And we are continuously strengthening it.”

 

And, Turkmenistan, he said, “is an important part of Indian vision in the field of regional connectivity, which is evident from our participation in the Ashgabat Agreement”.

The first India-Central Asia Summit, the MEA said, is a reflection of the country’s growing engagement with the Central Asian countries, which are a part of India’s “extended neighbourhood”.

Modi had paid a visit to all Central Asian countries in 2015. Subsequently, there have been exchanges at high levels at bilateral and multilateral forums.

The inception of the India-Central Asia Dialogue at Foreign Ministers’ level, the third meeting of which was held in New Delhi from December 18-20, 2021, has provided an impetus to India-Central Asia relations.

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