India and Kazakhstan today agreed to further strengthen their defence cooperation as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met the country’s top leaders and discussed ways to consolidate the strategic partnership in areas like trade, energy, security and information technology. Swaraj is on a three-nation tour to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as part of India’s efforts to boost strategic partnership with the resource-rich central Asian nations.
During talks with her Kazakh counterpart Kairat Abdrakhmanov, the two leaders held a comprehensive discussion on deepening cooperation in trade and investment, defence and security, energy, Information and Communications Technology (ITC), pharmaceutical sector, capacity building and culture. Kazakhstan is India’s largest trade and investment partner in the Central Asia region.
She also called on Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Bakytzhan Sagintayev and exchanged views on strengthening cooperation in trade and investment, ICT, joint film production, tourism and people-to-people contacts. Swaraj said during her meeting with Abdrakhmanov, they discussed the full range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
“We took stock of progress in our bilateral relations. India’s relations with Kazakhstan are built on a strong foundation of centuries old historical and cultural ties.
“Both India and Kazakhstan have developed multifaceted cooperation in all areas of bilateral and multilateral relations and are strategic partners since 2009,” she said.
Swaraj said during her talks with Abdrakhmanov she sought to consolidate and further strengthen India’s friendly relations with Kazakhstan. “Both Foreign Minister Abdrakhmanov and I expressed our interest to further strengthen our defence cooperation based on solid foundation that we have in place. Our defence and security sector cooperation has intensified in the last two years,” she said.
Kazakh Armed Forces Unit underwent training on peacekeeping operations in India and presently a mobile training team from the Indian Army is training Kazakh personnel in Almaty. Swaraj said India has emerged as the fastest-growing large economy in the world and is a global hub for manufacturing and innovation.
“Under Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi’s leadership, India has launched several flagship programme such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Clean India’, Start up India, 100 Smart Cities etc.
“I shared with Foreign Minister Abdrakhmanov that there are many elements of Digital India programme that could be of interest to Kazakhstan for its own Digital Kazakhstan programme,” she said.
She also discussed with Abdrakhmanov India’s interest to partner with Kazakhstan to explore markets for new products, diversifying from the trade in traditional products to inject fresh impetus to the bilateral trade. There is immense potential to be tapped in sectors like agricultural products, food processing, pharmaceuticals, energy and chemicals, she said.
The major products imported by India during 2016-17 were petroleum oils & oils obtained from bituminous minerals (64.5 per cent); radio active isotopes (18.5 per cent); asbestos (6.0 per cent), ferro alloys (3.9 per cent) and zinc (3.0 per cent). Major products exported to Kazakhstan were Pharmaceuticals and medical products, coffee and tea, machinery, apparel and chemical products.
Cumulative investments from India into Kazakhstan and from Kazakhstan into India from 2005 -2016 amount to USD 244 million and USD 83.09 million respectively. As on March 1, 2017, there were 520 Indian companies registered in Kazakhstan, out of which 259 are operational.
“India has keen interest in improving connectivity with this region. In December 2017, India acceded to TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) convention and in February 2018, India joined the Ashgabat Agreement. The International North South Transport Corridor is gaining momentum and the member states are working together to popularize the corridor,” she said.
Yesterday, Swaraj praised the Kazakh people for their warmth in welcoming the Indian diaspora as she interacted with the Indian community living in the country.