India makes pitch for better connectivity with Central Asia
Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval called for stronger action against terrorism and for better connectivity between New Delhi and Central Asia, as he met with his regional counterparts in Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Attending the second meeting of the India-Central Asia Secretaries/National Security Advisers of the Security Councils, Doval outlined India’s commitment to enhancing cooperation with Central Asian nations on multiple fronts.
However, he claimed that a “particular country” is responsible for preventing direct links between New Delhi and the region, India media reported, noting a veiled reference to Pakistan amid strained ties between the two neighbors.
“The absence of direct land access between Central Asia and India is an anomaly. This absence of direct connectivity is the result of a conscious policy of denial by a particular country,” Doval was quoted as saying by The Hindu. “This situation is not only self-defeating for this country but it also reduces the collective well-being of the entire region.”
Doval emphasized direct connectivity as a priority for India, but at the same time noted “it is important to ensure that connectivity initiatives are consultative, transparent, and participatory.” In an apparent swipe at China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Doval added that initiatives “should respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. They should also adhere to environmental parameters, ensure financial viability, and not become debt burdens.”
Nothing that India is a member of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200km (4,473-mile) multi-mode transit system that will connect ship, rail, and road routes for moving cargo between India, Iran, Central Asia, and Russia, and which has been touted as an alternative to the Suez Canal, Doval invited Central Asian states to use the Iranian port of Chabahar, where an Indian company operates the Shahid Beheshti terminal. He emphasized that with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan soon joining the INSTC, all five Central Asian states will be part of the upcoming corridor that will boost India’s trade ties with the region.
Doval also reiterated New Delhi’s stand on terrorism in “all its forms and manifestations,” stating that that any act of terrorism, regardless of its motivation or cause, is unjustifiable. He noted that the meeting in Kazakhstan was being held at a time of significant challenges for the world, and insisted that diplomacy must be at the center of all conflict resolution initiatives.
New Delhi has offered fully funded capacity-building programs in a range of areas to tackle both terrorism and drug trafficking, reports suggested.
Doval said that while relations between India and Central Asian countries have transformed into multifaceted and mutually beneficial ties based on shared trust, understanding, and friendship, New Delhi and its partners in the region face common security challenges and threats. “Malign actors from interconnected networks threaten our shared neighborhood,” the security adviser said.
Noting that the situation in Afghanistan remains a cause of concern, Doval stressed the need to form a truly inclusive and representative government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, and preserving the rights of women, children, and minorities.