India steps up efforts to bring C Asia closer | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India steps up efforts to bring C Asia closer

delhi Updated: Aug 15, 2012 23:00 IST
Jayanth Jacob

While marking the 65th year of India's Independence, 2012 has acquired considerable relevance on the global scene. It also observes the 20th anniversary of the erstwhile Soviet Union's collapse, and the birth of many Central Asian countries that are of strategic importance to India.

Meanwhile, India is reworking its Central Asian policy to woo several countries in the region, hoping it would be able to make up for lost time in the resource-rich Central Asia – where the Chinese have made huge inroads.

Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan, which are in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan, are on the same page as India. As part of its security and military ties with the country, which shares 1,206-km and 414-km boundaries with Afghanistan and China respectively, New Delhi has taken over an air base called Ayni. It is also planning to upgrade the military hospital there.

"We have close contact with Central Asian countries in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan," an official said, adding that occurrences in Afghanistan have direct security implications for India. And with the deadline for withdrawal of US troops nearing, interactions with the former Taliban-ruled country have become more frequent.

India hopes that its Connect Central Asia Policy would provide much-needed impetus to tie-building measures. While the main focal areas for expanding its Central Asia footprint are trade, transit, capacity building and agriculture, India is well aware that the region has immense potential in hydro power as well as mining. The key countries in the region include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Plans are afoot to establish 14 direct flights between India and five Central Asian countries to boost tourism, trade and commerce. However, despite these efforts, India still has a long way to go before it can match other superpowers on the scene. While India's trade with Central Asia accounts for $500 million, the figures on the Chinese and American charts amount to a whopping $29 billion and $26 billion respectively.