India in Central Asia
Narendra Modi’s visit to the Central Asian countries “the 5 stans”(Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) has its own strategic objectives. First, India is having a trade surplus with most of these countries. Our exports to these countries out weigh the imports that we have from them. The prime aim hence would be the economic ties and increasing the trade volume . Check these interesting charts from Wall Street Journal. They have an interesting story to say.
Second, while these republics did come out of the Soviet Union between 89 and 91 they had good contacts with Moscow for
quite sometime. In the past few years the situation is changing and China is emerging as the new leader in that place. By reaching out to these “Stans” (many of them share borders with China) India is trying to carve out a geo-political advantage for itself and also is trying to check the rising influence of the Chinese.
Three, it would be news to know that India has an air base out side India. This is in Tajikistan. The Farkhor air base is of importance to us as it is closer to Afghanistan and the central Asian countries. So it makes great sense that the Prime Minister of India visits that country. Then Tajikistan is also having its share of problems and is seeking India’s help. They have this Fergana Valley that they share with the Uzbeks and the Kyrgyz . With 3 countries, the 3 governments and the confusions they bring in and then the rugged landscape of the mountains, this valley has been a tough place to control
. Now, ISIS, the group that does not need an introduction wants to make inroads in to Central Asia. They want to exploit the power vaccum in the Ferghana valley and assert themselves there. Tajikistan is have big problems with ISIS as a number of their people have joined the ranks of ISIS. The fact that one of their high profile special forces chief has joined ISIS reflects the gravity of crisis the nation is facing. Tajiks want support from India in combating this malaise , they want support in cyber intelligence and other areas so that they can tackle the ISIS in a better way. India has ensured that Indians are by and large not affected by ISIS, so it can help the Tajikistan in the required manner. This way both the countries would benefit from one another.
Four, the trouble with ISIS is not restricted to Tajiks alone, the Uzbeks , the Kazakhs the Kyrgyz and other Central Asians are having issues with them. Indian help would always be appreciated as these countries want their populations to be saved and unaffected from the ISIS. Here is a nice article on Ferghana and the ambitions of ISIS over there.
In fact India agreed to help these nations in the areas of Cyber Security, the central Asian nations and India have also agreed to share Intelligence.
Five, India stands to benefit a lot if it maintains good ties with these countries. The Central Asian nations are rich in natural resources. We need oil and Gas from these nations. The problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan are stopping us from having a direct pipeline for OIL and Gas imports from these countries. Kazakhstan is rich with uranium and getting a hold of this would be of immense help to India as we want take full advantage of the 123 agreement, generate electricity and make ourselves a power surplus nation. In fact, we saw that India and Kazakhstan have signed a deal on Uranium trade during the current visit of Shri Modi.
Happy that we are moving in the right direction, good to see that we and the central Asian nations are gaining from this visit. We must have started all this when these countries became independent in the 90’s itself. Well, we missed it then but are doing it now. Happy that the NDA-2 is making good moves in the arena of foreign policy.
Image Source : Internet.