Energy focus of Ansari’s visit to Central Asia

April 4th, 2008 - 10:57 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Vishnu Makhijani
Ashgabat, April 4 (IANS) Vice President Hamid Ansari Friday underlined the importance of oil-rich Central Asia for India’s energy security as he began a week-long visit to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. “Energy will definitely figure in my talks,” Ansari told reporters on board his special Air India aircraft as he headed for this Turkmenistan capital on the first leg of the visit, his first overseas after assuming office last year.

“They are the producing countries, we are the markets. We want to tap all sources. We are a growing economy and we need more and more energy,” Ansari said.

“Both these countries are very important to us. This is our real neighbourhood,” he added, pointing out that the flying time from the Indian capital to here was shorter than that from New Delhi to Kanyakumari.

“Like us, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are developing countries but we are slightly ahead. The capacity to cooperate and assist is greater on our side. As our capability goes up, our ability to cooperate will go up,” the vice president maintained.

Asked whether there would be any discussions on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, Ansari replied: “Technical discussions are underway.”

Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov received Ansari on his arrival here.

Energy apart, the vice president’s discussions with the leaders of the two countries would cover bilateral, regional and global issues.

Answering a question on the developments in Pakistan, he termed these “very positive”.

“It’s very positive what the people have done. It augers well for our relations,” Ansari said.

A coalition government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has just taken power in Pakistan after the February general elections.

Ansari also sounded upbeat on India’s relations with the Arab world.

“They take us as a serious economic partner. They treat India as a stabilizing force,” he maintained.

A high-level delegation, including Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed, members of parliament Vijay Kumar Rupani, Viplob Thakur and N.N. Krishnadas, as also senior officials of the external affairs ministry is accompanying Ansari.

Ansari’s visit to the two nations comes at a time when two of India’s important diplomatic initiatives aimed at ensuring the country’s energy security - the India-US civilian nuclear deal and the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline appear headed for an uncertain future.

India signalled its growing stakes in the region when it participated as an observer at the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for the first time in the history of the regional grouping. SCO comprises China, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

India’s diplomatic thrust in the region got a boost after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Uzbekistan two years ago. India has also set up a military base at Ayni in Tajikistan to underscore the strategic dimension of ties between the two countries.

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