‘India faces six challenges in Central Asia’

January 16th, 2012 - 8:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) India faces six challenges in Eurasia, specifically in energy-rich Central Asia, as it seeks to build a broad-based political, economic and developmental partnership with the region “that is not a foray for resources”, a top diplomat said Monday.

“We seek to develop a political, economic and developmental partnership that is not a foray for resources. We face six challenges in this effort,” Ajay Bisaria, joint secretary (Eurasia) in the ministry of external affairs, said.

“There is the challenge of dealing with a multilateral world. Through the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Agreement), India is tied to Central Asia. India is on the cusp of becoming a member of the SCO. Once that happens, the engagement will strengthen,” Bisaria said while speaking at a session on “Overview of Developments in Eurasia” on the opening day of a two-day international seminar on “Energy, Transportation and Economic Links in Eurasia: Emerging Partnerships”.

“We need to step up our energy linkages. We need to step up trade and economic linkages. Then, there is the absence of significant engagement by the private sector. After all, the government can only be a facilitator,” Bisaria said at the seminar, jointly organised by defence ministry-funded think tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses and the external affairs ministry.

“There is the question of common security. With Afghanistan in SAARC, South Asia and Central Asia have come together. We need a common strategy to tackle extremism and terrorism.

“We need to involve the people of this region in the evolving relationship,” Bisaria said, noting that the countries of the region are “moving toward democratic structures” that had to specific to the nations concerned and could not follow any laid down model,” Bisaria added.

The two-day conference features 16 participants from all the five Central Asian republics — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — besides Mongolia, Russia, Japan, the EU, China, Turkey, Iran, the US and international organizations like the Asian Development Bank and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. There are also 11 Indian speakers.

Delivering the keynote address, Sanjay Singh, secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, said India can leverage agriculture, human resources, science and technology, pharmaceuticals and IT as important drivers of economic growth in the region.

Noting that connectivity was a major factor in India’s engagement with Central Asia and Eurasia, he said the proposed International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) could play a pivotal role in developing practical policy options to improve connectivity in the region. Countries of the region must aim to attain the full potential of INSTC, he added.

Welcoming the delegates, IDSA Director General Arvind Gupta said Eurasia has been described as the “heartland” and “pivot” of the world in geopolitical terms. Endowed as it is with significant amounts of natural resources and given its location, a number of countries have developed major interest in the region.

“Their presence has led to the emergence of a new configuration of interests in the region,” Gupta added.

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