A warm welcome to the International Conference Commemorating the 30th anniversary of India-Central Asia Diplomatic Relations.
We are grateful to Amb. Sanjay Verma, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, for accepting to make the key note address. The Conference would greatly benefit from his views.
Also, would like to thank
HE Mr. Nurlan Zhalgasbayev, Ambassador of Kazakhstan,
HE Mr. Lukmon Bobo kalonzoda, Ambassador Tajikistan,
HE Mr. Azamat Seidibaliev, Cd’A of Republic of Kyrgyzstan,
HE Mr. Aziz Baratov, Cd’A of the Republic of Uzbekistan, for agreeing to address the Conference.
I extend our appreciation to eminent experts from Central Asian countries, and participants from India for joining, among them Ambassadors Ashok Sajjanhar, Amb Yoginder Kumar, Amb Gitesh Sarma and Amb Vinod Kumar.
The 30 years of diplomatic relations between India and Central Asia has been a momentous journey of friendship and cooperation. India was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with all five countries in the region. Over time, our ties have matured and transformed to comprehensive and enduring strategic partnerships. There is growing convergence between India and the Central Asian countries on issues such as regional security, connectivity, energy security, economic cooperation and people-to-people contacts. The immense goodwill among the people of Central Asia cements our relationship.
PM Modi’s visit to all five Central Asian countries in 2015 was a significant milestone in amplifying the engagement between India and the region. High level contacts continued. Since 2019, there has been a mechanism of India-Central Asia Dialogue at the Foreign Minister level. These engagements lead to the first-ever India-Central Asia Summit hosted by India earlier this year in January. At the Summit, PM Modi emphasised that Central Asia is central to India's vision of an integrated and stable extended neighbourhood and outlined a "Support of All, Development for All, Trust of All, Efforts of All" approach for regional development, peace and prosperity. A comprehensive "Delhi Declaration" was adopted, evident in which are many areas pf co-operation and of convergence of interests. Our Leaders decided to hold the Summit level meetings every two years and for this purpose, "India-Central Asia Centre" with the Secretariat in New Delhi was set up.
Central Asia is a significant geopolitical and geo-economic region. India, the fifth largest economy in the world, is located in the region's proximity, with significant economic, investment, trade potential for Central Asia. Insecurity in our common neighbourhood and lack of direct land connectivity are considered factors affecting our relations in economic spheres. Terrorism and related security challenges and the unstable situation in Afghanistan, have impacted the stability and security of the region. All our countries seek a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan. The deteriorating humanitarian situation there would need a joint response.
The First Session of the Conference today on “India-Central Asia Security and Strategic Interests” will examine our shared security and strategic interests.
On the connectivity front between India and Central Asia, there have been some positive developments. The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), has recently become operational. There is agreement for exploring the joint use of Chabahar port. India has also acceded to the Ashgabat Agreement. All these can contribute to connectivity and thereby enhancing prospects of our economic collaboration. The Second Session on “India-Central Asia Connectivity:” could go in depth on some of these issues.
Connectivity can also enhance people-to-people connect. As I already mentioned, there is immense goodwill existing at the people-to-people level. How to further enhance this and our cultural connects will be subject of discussions at the Third Session of the Conference.
The last Session will look at “Energy Geopolitics, Economy and Trade” a topical issue as the world is today faced with crises of food and energy security.
Regional organisations such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and are also gaining more traction. India has assumed the Presidency of SCO. We are approaching it under the theme “SECURE SCO (Security for citizens; economic development; connectivity in the region; Unity; respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and environment protection.
As the lead Think Tank of the SCO, ICWA would be organizing several activities in the coming period. Under the SCO Resident Researchers Programme, ICWA would be receiving one scholar each month from a SCO member country for a stay in India. Currently, we are hosting a scholar from Kazakhstan.
In 30 years of our diplomatic relations, we have been successful in building confidence and trust along with bridges of co-operation. I hope today's deliberations will help to create a roadmap for expanding the scope and scale of our relationship.