‘India needs to engage Central Asia for 30 years’

January 13th, 2012 - 7:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Eurasia, and specifically resource-rich Central Asia that is witnessing a new version of the Great Game as the interests of various powers converge, should be India’s focus for at least the next 30 years by forging energy, transportation and economic links, the head of a leading think tank said Friday.

“India has a Look East policy and a Look West policy (that addresses the Gulf). The missing link is Central Asia,” Arvind Gupta, the newly-appointed head of defence ministry-funded think tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, said adding: “Central Asia is the new pivot, the new version of the Great Game, as the interests of various powers converge.”

“We have to find ways of dealing with Central Asia. Unfortunately, we have been blocked by developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran,” he told reporters ahead of a two-day international conference “Energy, Transportation and Economic Links in Eurasia: Emerging Partnerships”, here Jan 16-17.

“We can do this through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or bilaterally,” he added.

India is already engaged with the region in the areas of hydrocarbons and energy, including civil nuclear energy and uranium supply, as also in transport and energy pipelines connectivity and space research and cooperation in the areas of economy, defence, education, IT and countering extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking.

Then, there is the ambitious International North South Transport Corridor that provides for the transit of goods through Iran and the Caspian Sea to Russia and northern Europe. However, though the agreement on this was signed in 2002, the first meeting on the project was held only in 2007. There is also a tripartite agreement between the Indian, Iranian and Afghan governments to develop the Chabhar route through Melak, Zaranj and Delaram to facilitate regional trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

In Kazakhstan, India is engaged in the exploration of hydrocarbons and cooperating in the peaceful uses of atomic energy, including fuel supply, nuclear medicine, and use of radiation technologies for healthcare.

But, as Gupta noted, “keeping in mind the current geopolitical significance of Eurasia, especially with the discovery of large oil and gas fields, India needs to develop its relations with Central Asia in a more constructive way”.

“It is time that the country renewed its links (that go back to Sakan, Grecian and Kushan times) and took active initiatives to examine forms of engagement and involvement in the various regional and extra-regional initiatives taking shape, going beyond TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline) and similar plans,” he added.

The two-day conference will feature 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 will also be 11 Indian speakers.

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