Ties between Central and South Asia facing hiccups: Expert

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New Delhi, Aug.28 : Links between Central Asia and South Asia stand a chance of improving only if the historical linkages of the past are given their due importance and applied in the modern context, a strategic affairs expert has said.

In a recent interview given to this correspondent in Almaty, Sanat K. Kushkumbayev, the First Deputy Director of the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies, said that of late, the two regions were experiencing difficulties of communication, trade-related problems and instability, all which were contributing to an unhealthy state of affairs.

During the course of his interaction with Asian News International, Kushkumbayev said that if there is instability in Afghanistan, there is also an unhealthy relationship between India and Pakistan, notwithstanding the composite dialogue-driven confidence-building measures initiated by both countries.

As far as Central Asian links with India and Pakistan were concerned, he said: "We wish Pakistan and India to solve their disputes in a peaceful way. Kazakhstan is neutral, but we are keen on peace. On Kashmir (dispute), we (Kazakhs) don't want to be seen as supporting Pakistan or India; we want both to continue their dialogue. Trade could be an instrument for easing disputes between the two. CICA has not been created for playing a global role."

He particularly highlighted the role that a growing power like India could play in global affairs.

"India plays a significant role in South Asia. We accept that India is feeling that it does not have the required resources of energy. Perhaps, this could be an area of cooperation (with Kazakhstan). We could also cooperate with India's policy in Afghanistan. India's balanced approach to the situation in Iran is praiseworthy," Kushkumbayev said.

On economic linkages, he said the North-South Transport Link Project is an area where countries like Russia, India, Iran Kazakhstan, Krygistan and Azerbaijan are involved, and if all of them came together on the issue, business links would enjoy a boom next to none.

Of particular interest to Kazakhstan were the huge Indian ports in the West and the South, "which do not freeze in the winters"

"From a trade point of view, it is a very key issue to be addressed, as the Indian market is a very big one," he said.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, he said, the Port of Gwadar is an ideal point for promoting trade links between Pakistan, India and China for starters.

As far as oil and gas prospects were concerned, he said that if the volume of gas in Kazakhstan goes up, "Yes, we can discuss this country's involvement in the project."

What is economically beneficial to the region is the key; geo-politics should be pushed to the background, Kushkumbayev said.

"We will tell the people that we are diversifying the economy. Maybe Russia and China could get jealous about such an initiative. An oil relationship with Iran; Kazakhstan sees this as most beneficial. We need to take the U.S. on board. We have to take the opinions of big countries for trading with Iran. If the situation in Afghanistan does not improve, we can trade with South Asia through Iran, and therefore, a diplomatic solution is required for the Iran nuclear issue," he said.

Iran, he concluded, is following a pragmatic policy and was not exporting Islamic revolution as the West was projecting.

As far as Afghanistan was concerned, all countries involved should stop financing the war, otherwise it would never stop.

"We should stop financing the economy of the war. In the last 25 years, this sort of financing has taken place in Afghanistan. Two generations of Afghanistan have been deprived of a civil education. Instead, they have received a military education. In Afghanistan today, one kilogram of heroin is worth more than one kilogram of grain. People are realizing that the war in Afghanistan cannot be solved militarily," he concluded. By Ashok Dixit

ANI

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