Peace and the nation-building process in Afghanistan were crucial factors for India in looking forward to building ties with Central Asia, Vice-president Hamid Ansari stated here on Wednesday.
"No discussion on Central Asia and its immediate neighbourhood would be complete without taking on board the challenges arising out of the situation in Afghanistan," said Ansari. "The entire region will benefit, if realistic alternatives are thought and Afghanistan is drawn into a cooperative regional economic and security framework so that nation building there can proceed based on economic development, social harmony, rule of law and participatory democracy in consonance with the wishes of the Afghan people."
The easiest route through Pakistan and Afghanistan, appeared dependent totally on a good mix of human wisdom and divine intervention, and both seemed elusive in the foreseeable future, Ansari said in his inaugural address at a seminar on "India and Central Asia: Perspectives on bilateral and regional cooperation".
India had entered strategic agreements with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - three of the five Central Asian republics - and increased cooperation between specialised security agencies and defence forces, the vice-president said.
In his address at the seminar, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal proposed a programme for Punjab farmers who could take hold of the vast uncultivated land in Central Asian countries. "Farmers in Punjab now have small land holdings, and so agriculture was not viable," he said.
"These countries have big uncultivated land but few farmers, while we have smaller land holdings but more farmers with vast experience and technical knowledge," said Badal. "Together, we can be of benefit to each other."
He urged the ministry of external affairs to ask the Central Asian countries to relax visa norms to promote bilateral trade and commerce and regional cooperation. "At present, there are a plethora of problems regarding the permission for trade with private entrepreneurs from these countries," he added.
Amritsar, he suggested, could be the prime trade centre for India's business with the entire Central Asia. "Punjab being a landlocked state is left with only land route to do trade with these countries to propel its economic and commercial growth," he added.