The presidents and prime ministers of five central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – were supposed to be present in New Delhi watching as special guests our Republic Day Parade on January 26. But, due to Covid, they could not come and now they will joins us in an virtual meeting later this week.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar will interact with them discuss various issues which would have been deliberated had they were here physically. The talks are likely to include improving people to people contacts between them and India, besides promoting investments, both to and fro, in different sectors.
If you take a look at the world map, it is clear that Afghanistan and Pakistan are between these five central Asian countries and India. Interestingly, these five countries are Muslim dominated ones, though they are not dogmatic radical Islamist regimes. They inherited their liberal or secular ethos from erstwhile Soviet Union in which they were part of.
Modi led BJP government is reaching out to these Central Asian countries now mainly to counter the growing nexus between hardcore Islamic forces under Taliban regime in Afghan and Pakistan’s staunch lobby against India. A major hurdle for cooperation between India and 5 Stans is the geographical divide, lack of land route connectivity.
Still there is scope for cooperation, if viable sea and aviation routes are found. Coming visit of Iranian foreign minister Amir-Abdollahian to New Delhi can be used for the purpose. If India can secure support of these five central Asian countries and maintain normal relations with Russia, India can neutralise the impact of radical Islamic elements.