India courting Central Asian countries in geopolitical race for influence – EURACTIV.com
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries in New Delhi on Monday, December 20 in an apparent effort to compete with the influence of other geopolitical players in the region: Russia, China and Pakistan.
Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan met Modi at an India-Central Asia Dialogue meeting, hosted by India’s Foreign Minister on 18 and December 19.
Apparently, the meeting focused on trade and connectivity, development partnerships and regional developments, including the situation in Afghanistan.
Meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. We discussed ways to further strengthen India’s close partnership with Central Asia, and also exchanged views on developments in the region. pic.twitter.com/C1Y3THdumt
– Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 20 December 2021
According to the website of the Indian Prime Minister, Central Asian foreign ministers stressed their country’s leaders’ readiness to further strengthen relations with India.
In return, Modi underlined the importance India attaches to its long-standing relations with the countries of Central Asia, which are part of what India calls its “extended neighborhood”.
He also congratulated the ministers on the 30th anniversary of their independence. All the countries of Central Asia were Soviet republics that gained independence and embarked on nation-building after the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.
Modi recalled his visits to all Central Asian countries in 2015, followed by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
He also stressed the importance of maintaining cultural and personal contacts between India and Central Asia, given the popularity of the region for Indian movies, music and yoga.
The potential for enhanced economic cooperation between India and Central Asia and the role of connectivity in this regard was also mentioned by the Prime Minister of India.
According to Indian media portal The Hindu, it is “significant” that the foreign ministers of the countries of Central Asia chose to come to New Delhi. This is interpreted as an indicator that India’s openness to this region is reciprocal.
“The Hindu” also noted that India’s land connectivity with Central Asia is hampered by Pakistan, which establishes strong ties and transit trade agreements with each of the Central Asian countries.
Pakistan and India are sworn enemies and both possess nuclear weapons. Pakistan seeks to leverage its influence in Central Asia as a country sharing the same Muslim religion as the five former Soviet republics. It has also developed links with China and has benefited from significant investments in infrastructure.
“If India has strengthened its ties with other parts of Asia, it must now redouble its efforts towards Central Asia if it is to counter the ‘Great Game’ rivalries unfolding in the region and win back its common history with countries which constitute an important market, a source of energy, but also a bulwark against the threats of extremism and radicalization, writes The Hindu.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]