Central Asia ‘central’ to India’s vision for stable extended neighbourhood, says PM at inaugural summit

New Delhi:Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday stressed that Central Asia is “central” to India’s vision for an integrated and stable extended neighbourhood, as he urged for drawing up a 30-year roadmap to boost regional connectivity and cooperation with the landlocked yet resource-rich region. Addressing the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, at the summit that was also held to mark 30 years of establishment of relations between both sides, PM Modi said the situation in Afghanistan has all members worried. “We are all concerned with regard to regional security and have similar aims. The Afghanistan situation has all of us worried, and in this context our cooperation for regional security and stability is all the more important,” he stressed. The Delhi Declaration adopted at the end of the summit, agreed that both sides would continue close consultations on the situation in Afghanistan, and in this regard decided to establish a Joint Working Group at the Senior Officers Level. “The evolving situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the security and stability of the region was discussed in detail. The Leaders reiterated their strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan and also discussed the current humanitarian situation and decided to continue to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people,” Reenat Sandhu, Secretary West in the MEA, said briefing the media on the summit. PM Modi outlined three aims for the Summit – firstly to make clear that for the sake regional security, prosperity and peace mutual cooperation between India and Central Asia is necessary. Secondly, is to give an effective structure to their mutual cooperation. This would enable regular interactions between different stakeholders at different levels, he said. The third, is to draw up an ambitious 30-year roadmap that will help plan an integrated approach to regional connectivity and cooperation. “I want to make clear that Central Asia is central to India’s vision of an integrated and stable extended neighbourhood,” the PM stressed. The leaders also discussed ways to enhance connectivity and trade, especially the Chabahar port in Iran. An important outcome of the meeting was the agreement among the Leaders of India and Central Asian countries to hold Summit level meetings every two years. The next Summit would accordingly be held in 2024. One of the key proposals made by Prime Minister Modi was to institutionalize the framework for India-Central Asia cooperation at a regional level and to include annual Ministerial meetings of the Foreign Ministers, Trade Ministers, Cultural Ministers and Secretaries of Security, to strengthen cooperation in the areas of political and development partnership, trade and connectivity, culture and tourism, and security. He also proposed the setting up of an ‘India-Central Asia Center’ in New Delhi to serve as a Secretariat for supporting this framework of cooperation. “Prime Minister Modi underlined the importance of setting an ambitious agenda for our partnership, taking into account the changing global environment and aspirations of our youth. In this context, he suggested preparing a road map for the next 30 years, focussing on connectivity and cooperation in an integrated manner,” said Sandhu. In the area of trade and economic cooperation, PM Modi proposed organizing a Round Table on Connectivity and Energy Cooperation, two important aspects of India’s economic relations with Central Asia. The leaders also discussed ways to enhance connectivity and trade, especially the Chabahar port in Iran. India welcomed the interest of the Central Asian countries to utilize the services of Shahid Beheshti Terminal at Chabahar Port in Iran and proposed the establishment of a Joint Working Group on Chabahar Port to address issues of free movements of goods and services between India and Central Asian countries. The proposal was welcomed by Central Asian countries. On connectivity, the Delhi Declaration joint statement said that the Leaders emphasized that connectivity projects deserve priority attention and could be a force-multiplier for trade and economic cooperation and contacts between countries and people. Earlier, in his address at the summit, attended by Presidents Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, Sadyr Japarov of the Kyrgyz Republic and Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, PM Modi said that India and the Central Asian nations have completed 30 years of their diplomatic relations. “The past three decades has seen our relationship achieve many successes. And now, at this important juncture, we have to draw up an ambitious vision for the coming years,” he stressed. “A vision that will help achieve the ambitions of our people, especially our youth, in this time of global changes. At the bilateral level, India has close relations with all Central Asian nations.” The leaders also condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reiterated that providing support, using terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, terror financing, arms and drugs trafficking, dissemination of a radical ideology and abuse of cyber space to spread disinformation and incite violence, goes against the basic principles of humanity and international relations, the joint statement said. They also called for early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. They welcomed the proposal for establishment of an “IT/ITES Task Force” between the IT organizations, IT parks and IT companies of India and the Central Asian countries to work towards greater digitalization and E-Governance in their countries, as well as business process outsourcing (BPO) by sharing of best practices, knowledge etc. They also agreed that Joint Counter-Terrorism Exercises will be held between India and interested Central Asian countries. India will also host a 100-member youth delegation from the Central Asian countries every year to promote greater understanding. India and Central Asian countries agreed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations by organizing various activities including issuance of joint postal stamps. To highlight the linguistic and spiritual linkages, the sides agreed to commission a ‘Dictionary of Common words used in India and Central Asian countries’ and showcase a Buddhist exhibition in Central Asian countries. The summit, with the theme ‘Taking India-Central Asia relations to new heights’. lasted for more than one and a half hours. The leaders reviewed the progress made in India-Central Asia relations during the past three decades since the establishment of diplomatic ties and discussed their vision of taking the partnership to greater heights in the coming years by enhancing cooperation across several areas. They also held candid exchange of views on regional and international issues of interest, especially the current regional security situation, said Secretary West Reenat Sandhu. UNI/RN

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