PM Modi to host India's first-ever summit with Central Asian leaders later today : The Tribune India

PM Modi to host India's first-ever summit with Central Asian leaders later today

The five Central Asian Presidents were to attend the Republic Day celebrations as chief guests but rising omicron cases led them to opt for a virtual summit with PM Modi

PM Modi to host India's first-ever summit with Central Asian leaders later today

Narendra Modi. PTI file



Tribune News Service

Sandeep Dikshit

New Delhi, January 27

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host India’s first ever virtual summit with all five Presidents of Central Asian countries later on Thursday. The interaction at the apex level caps a concerted effort by the South Block to develop regular interaction with Central Asian states as they seek to balance the influence of Russia and China by developing ties with India, another major regional power.

The five Central Asian Presidents were to attend the Republic Day celebrations as chief guests but rising omicron cases led them to opt for a virtual summit with PM Modi. The summit is a “reflection of India’s growing engagement with the Central Asian countries, which are a part of India’s extended neighbourhood”, the MEA said.

Modi has visited all Central Asian countries in 2015. Subsequently, India-Central Asia Dialogue at Foreign Ministers’ level has held three meetings. Besides, Secretaries of National Security Councils of Central Asian countries participated in the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan held in New Delhi on November 10 last year.

During the first India-Central Asia Summit, the leaders are expected to exchange views on regional and international issues of interest, especially the evolving regional security situation.Some of the other major bilateral focus areas are trade and connectivity, development partnership and people-to-people contacts.

Over the years, India has developed special ties with some Central Asian countries. For example, Kazakh troops participate as part of the Indian UN Peacekeeping battalion in Lebanon with the sixth such rotation currently going on. Previous Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaeyev made five visits to India including once as chief guest on Republic Day. In fact, the first overseas visit by Nazarbayev was to India after Kazakhstan, the largest Central Asian country, became independent.

Kyrgyz Presidents have visited India six times while Modi visited Bishkek twice. India has set up five telemedicine centres, extended a $ 200 million line of credit, holds annual military exercises ‘Khanjar’ and has a 15,000-strong student community.

Tajik Presidents have also visited India six times and strong cooperation in defence includes a military hospitaland an unacknowledged airbase. Sharing ethnicity with Panjshir Valley, Tajiks share a very similar position with India on Afghanistan.

Presidents of Uzbekistan, the most populous Central Asian country, have visited India seven times while PM Modi visited Tashkent in 2015 and 2016. A recent diplomatic breakthrough was the setting up of a Secretary-level India-Uzbek-Iran trilateral Working Group on Chabahar port, days after Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had floated the proposal when he interacted with Modi in December 2020.

India has been extremely active in the country, extending a line of credit of $ 1 billion and approving four projects worth $ 450 million besides encouraging the setting up of campuses by Indian Universities like Sharda, Amity and Sambhroom and medical centres like Medanta. Cadilla is investing $50 million in a pharma plant.

Presidents of Turkmenistan, the country with the most reclusive foreign policy, have visited India thrice. India established an IT centre in 2011 and an industrial training centre in 2002. Ashgabat has been pressing New Delhi to put plans for a gas pipeline, traversing Afghanistan and Pakistan, into operation.

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