India Central Asia Relations

India Central Asia Relations

This article deals with ‘India Central Asia Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is Central Asia?

Central Asia is made up of five nations=> Central Asian republics / underbelly of Russia

Country  Capital
Kazakhstan Astana
Kyrgyzstan Bishkek
Tajikistan Dushanbe
Turkmenistan Ashgabat
Uzbekistan Tashkent

Got independence in 1991 after disintegration of Soviet Union . All landlocked countries but ultra- rich in resources with sparse population.

Some History

  • Al -Beruni came to india in 11th century from central Asia  (author of Tahkik ul Hind)
  • Babur was from Uzbekistan (Samarkand , Ferghana province

Politics

  • Since 1991 , although they have achieved independence but governments are authoritarian  in nature except Kyrgyzstan . 
  • They don’t  open up & are always fearful that western countries especially US supported by NATO might try to change regime like happened in Tulip Revolution in  Kyrgyzstan in 2005

Economy of these States

  • States which have strong economy are
    • Kazakhstan with high per capita 
    • Turkmenistan which is major supplier of gas 

But this is not the case with other states . Eg Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan  are weak  Economically because they don’t have hydrocarbon resources.

  • These states are still dependent on Russia (Tajikistan’s major source of revenue is remittances from Russia )

Importance for India

Endowed with natural resources

  • Turkministan : 4th largest gas reserves . India is part of TAPI Pipeline starting in Turkministan
  • Uzbekistan : Gas
  • Kazakhstan : Oil and Uranium (KazAtomPro)
  • Tajikistan : vast hydropower potential

Since india is energy hungry nation, these nations are natural allies in this respect

Strategic Location

  • Located at bridge between  Europe and Asia.
  • Main lynchpin in International North South Corridor

Security

  • Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkministan borders Afghanistan . 
  • This region   known  for  its  moderate practice  of  islam will  be  a  viable  partner.
  • India’s only foreign military airbase ie  Air Base in Farkhor(Tajikistan),operated by IAF

Trade

  • Trade  between  India &  Central Asia  is roughly  $2  billion  compared  to their $ 50  Billion  trade with China.  =>   huge untapped potential  
  • Indian Pharma and Drugs, Tea and Coffee are in huge demand 
  • Various Indian Companies are involved in Energy Projects in Central Asia
    • NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India) has signed MoU with Kazakhstan (KazAtomPro)
    • ONGC , Mittal Energy & KazMunaiGaz (KMG)  signed deal on offshore Satpayev Oil Block in Caspian Sea
    • BHEL & NHPC active for hydro projects in Tajikistan

Demand of Indian Products

  • Indian Pharma and Drugs, Tea and Coffee are in huge demand in Central Asian Countries
  • Bollywood is popular (soft power)

Drug Trafficking

  • Tajikistan  is  gateway  for  Afghan  drugs  to  Central  Asia.  This money is  used  for  funding  terror  activities  against  India  too.

Connect Central Asia (2012)

  • India’s initiative for political , economic & cultural proximity with Central Asia
  • Propounded in 2012
  • Main Aspects
    • Cooperation in Science and Technology
    • Educational Exchange
    • Helping Infrastructural Development in Central Asia
    • Regular Summit Meetings and other exchanges 

Not  only economic cooperation but Socio-Economic -Political Cooperation

Constraints

Landlocked and inaccessible

Central Asian region is land locked => Poor connectivity with India

To address this

To round up , steps taken by India to have connectivity with Central Asia

  • International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
  • Building Chabahar Port
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organization membership
  • Speeding up  process to sign free trade agreement (FTA) with Eurasian Economic Union
  • Acceding to Ashgabat Agreement
  • Connect Central Asia Policy
  • TAPI Pipeline

Chinese presence and interest

  • China is building huge inroads in Central Asia through One Belt One Road

Radicalisation and Terrorism

  • Central Asia finds itself exposed and vulnerable to influences like Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Taliban, IUM, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and others

Other Issues

  • ‘‘youth bulge’’  with limited economic opportunities
  • Serious and worsening corruption
  • Potentially restive minority populations (such as the ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan )
  • Drug trafficking

Ashgabat agreement

  • Agreement 
    • Signed between the Governments of Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan , Uzbekistan (later 2016 : Kazakhstan  ( & Pakistan) joined & 2018 : India joined)
    • Aim :  to establish international transport and transit corridor linking central Asia with the Persian Gulf (easy custom clearances, fast transport with checking at each border etc)
    • It has two phases
First Joining Uzbekistan, Turkministan and Iran via Rail line
Second Making shipping corridor at Bandar Abbas and Chabahar

Significance

  • Easy access to Central Asia and Eurasia via Iran  (inline with Connect Central Asia Policy)
  • Increase in trade with Afghanistan by providing enhanced connectivity through Iran
  • It is in sync with International North South Transport Corridor in which India has huge stake
  • India will be able to better utilise its asset created in form of Chabahar port.
  • More opportunities for Indian companies to invest in Infrastructure 
  • In future, these projects can be combined to challenge OBOR

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