India-Central Asia cooperation 'essential' for regional security, assumes more importance due to developments in Afghanistan: PM
New Delhi, Jan 27: Cooperation between India and Central Asia is essential for regional security and is now more important in the context of developments in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the first summit with presidents of five Central Asian nations on Thursday.
Central Asia is "central to India's vision of an integrated and stable extended neighbourhood", Modi asserted at the virtual meet as the two sides also looked at adopting an integrated approach for regional connectivity and cooperation in the next 30 years. The summit, hosted by India, was attended by the five presidents -- Kazakhstan's Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Uzbekistan's Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan's Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyz Republic.
In his initial remarks at the summit, Modi said, "Our concerns and objectives with respect to regional security are the same. We all are concerned about the developments in Afghanistan and in this context cooperation between India and Central Asia has become all the more important for regional stability and security."
Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban last year, India has been pitching for providing unimpeded humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country. At the same time, India has also been insisting that Afghan soil must not be used for any terrorist activities against any country.
Calling for defining an ambitious vision for cooperation between India and Central Asia in the coming years, the Prime Minister said there is a need for a vision that fulfills the ambition of our peoples, especially the youth, in a changing world. There are three main objectives of this summit, Modi said, adding the first one is to make it clear that cooperation between India and Central Asia "is essential for regional security and prosperity...From India's side, I want to make it clear that Central Asia is central to India's vision of an integrated and stable extended neighbourhood."
He said the second objective of the summit is to give effective structure to India-Central Asia cooperation. Modi said a structure of regular interaction at various levels and between all stakeholders will be established. The third objective of the summit is to formulate an ambitious roadmap for cooperation.
"Through this, we will be able to adopt an integrated approach for regional connectivity and cooperation in the next thirty years," he said. Talking about India's bilateral ties with the five Central Asian countries, Modi said Kazakhstan has become an important partner for India for its energy security. He expressed sympathies for the loss of lives and property in Kazakhstan where large-scale violence took place recently following protests that were initially triggered by a rise in fuel prices.
"In our expanding cooperation with Uzbekistan, our state governments are also active participants in which my home state Gujarat is also included," Modi said. With the Kyrgyz Republic there is active cooperation in the fields of education and high altitude research, he said and noted thousands of Indian students are studying there.
He also said India's cooperation with Tajikistan on security is being strengthened further. Turkmenistan is an important part of India's vision for regional connectivity that is reflected in the Ashgabat agreement, he added. On their part, the five presidents hailed PM Modi for hosting the summit and said holding talks in this format on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations will take cooperation to a new level.
This is the first engagement of its kind between India and the Central Asian countries at the level of leaders. The first India-Central Asia Summit is a reflection of the country's growing engagement with the Central Asian countries, which are a part of India's "extended neighbourhood", the ministry of external affairs said. Modi had paid a visit to all Central Asian countries in 2015. Subsequently, there have been exchanges at high levels at bilateral and multilateral forums. PTI