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Modi's visit to five Central Asian nations to give fillip to ties

By Ians

New Delhi, June 29: Energy cooperation, trade and connectivity and people-to-people links are set to top the agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's early July visit to the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan - a region largely neglected for many years.

According to a talk here on Monday by former Indian envoy Ashok Sajjanhar, and the envoys of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Modi's visit on July 6-13 to the five land-locked nations, and attending the BRICS and SCO summits in Russia in between, was a very welcome diplomatic engagement by India.

Modi's visit to five Central Asian nations to give fillip to ties.
Sajjanhar, an expert on the region who has been envoy to Kazakhstan, said: "India has historical ties with Central Asia but has not been able to take maximum advantage of its historical relations."

Addressing a talk on "India-Central Asia Relations: The Road Ahead", organised by the Ananta Aspen Centre here, the former envoy said the development of the Chabahar port in Iran, which is progressing, would give a major fillip to India's connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Also read: TAPI to top Narendra Modi's talks agenda in Turkmenistan

He said Modi's visit to all the five countries was "significant and has the potential to be a game changer".

Modi's visit to Kazakhstan on July 7-8 would coincide with the first drilling for oil in the Satpayev block, in which India has 25 percent stake.

ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) -- the overseas arm of state-run ONGC -- had in 2011 picked up 25 percent stake in the Satpayev oil block in the North Caspian Sea.

The visit is also expected to see both sides ink a major agreement for joint exploration and mining of uranium in Kazakhstan, which has the world's largest uranium reserves.

Besides, both sides are also likely to see cooperation in the field of railways.

Turkmenistan envoy Parakhat H. Durdyev, addressing the talk, said Modi's visit would see talks on the TAPI pipeline, besides on energy cooperation, trade and development, tourism and people-to-people links.

Tajikistan envoy Mirzosharif Jalolov said Modi's visit was expected to see a boost to cooperation in the field of agriculture, cultural ties and education cooperation, especially in the fields of IT and medicine.

Jalolov said both sides need to have more high-level, face-to-face talks which help to give a new direction to ties.

He also said his country has huge potential for hydropower generation, which India can tap.

He said India can tap the CASA 1000 project, which forsees tapping Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for hydropower. Both countries are rich in water sources cascading from the mountain ranges.

Kyrgyzstan envoy Samargiul Adamkulova said her country wants a long-lasting partnership with India and that a high-level visit has been pending for many, many years.

She said her country has joined the Russia-driven Eurasian Economic Union and Modi's visit would give it further impetus.

She said the visit was expected to see momentum in the fields of energy and renewable energy, as well as in agriculture, food processing, IT, health and education.

Sajjanhar said that in Uzbekistan, the talks were expected to focus on joint ventures, besides on boosting trade.

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