New Delhi, January 24
Sino-Indian rivalry over Central Asia has heated up with Beijing announcing a virtual summit with the five Presidents of Central Asia on Tuesday. This is just two days before PM Narendra Modi will hold the first-ever such interaction with the five Central Asian Presidents.
With China giving hot competition in Central Asia, India is attempting to ensure that its first-ever summit with the five Presidents from the region on January 27 does not become a one-off affair.
India has proposed that such a summit be held every two years and is also willing to bankroll a secretariat based here to push the various cooperation proposals forward.
China made a surprise announcement on Monday that its President Xi Jinping will chair a virtual summit with Presidents of the five Central Asian Presidents to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
This is exactly what PM Modi plans to do on January 27 with the programme, unlike in the case of China, having been decided at least a month in advance.
This will be China’s first major diplomatic action with Central Asia this year and the first heads-of-state meeting between China and the five Central Asia countries. “The summit is of great significance for all sides to take stock of the achievements and experience of China-Central Asia relations, and seek coordination and make plans for future bilateral cooperation,” said the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs while making the announcement on Monday.
It is extremely unusual to announce such a summit just 24 hours before it is due to begin.
To be fair, the India-Central Asia summit had been fixed much in advance. In fact, the five Central Asian Presidents were to arrive here in-person to participate as joint Chief Guests for the Republic Day celebrations. But the spike of Omicron cases forced the cancellation of their visit and it was agreed to hold the summit virtually on January 27.
India and the five Central Asian countries have a foreign minister-level mechanism that has met thrice on an annual basis. New Delhi has proposed similar Ministerial level interactions on political issues and development cooperation; trade and connectivity; culture and tourism; and, defence and security.
Beijing said during its summit, Xi and the five Central Asian Presidents will adopt and release a leaders’ joint statement. “China is ready to work with Central Asian countries to deepen political mutual trust and expand mutually beneficial cooperation across the board so as to further upgrade the relationship and bring it to new heights,” said its Foreign Affairs Ministry.
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