New Delhi Correspondent
India has proposed the establishment of a “Development Group” to scale up its relations with five Central Asian countries through concrete proposals for partnership.
Speaking at the first-ever India-Central Asia Dialogue in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said development partnership has emerged as an important component of India’s engagement with other countries. “Today, I offered to extend this partnership to Central Asia as well where we can bring our countries closer by taking up concrete projects under our Lines of Credit and Buyers’ Credit, and by sharing our expertise,” she added.
“In this context, India proposes the setting up of the “India-Central Asia Development Group” to take forward this development partnership between India and Central Asian countries. All our countries will be represented in this G2G group. This Group will be requested to come up with concrete proposals,” Swaraj was quoted by an official statement made available here as saying.
The Dialogue was hosted by Uzbekistan and attended by Foreign Ministers from Central Asian countries of Afghanistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Swaraj termed the maiden Dialogue as “the starting point for a new era in relations between India and Central Asia.”
Swaraj said, “Our dialogue has reaffirmed the centuries old ties between the peoples of India, Central Asia and Afghanistan. We are comfortable with each other and are natural partners. Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook a landmark visit to all the five Central Asia countries in 2015, the first by an Indian leader, which emphasized what Central Asia means to India.”
Swaraj said, “ Modi’s visit achieved important results bilaterally with each one of the five Central Asian countries but also set us thinking what we can do more together to substantially enhance economic engagement and development partnership between India and Central Asia.”
India, she said, wanted to build a modern and comprehensive partnership on these strong foundations. “We had an opportunity to review the overall gamut of India’s relations with the Central Asian region and had extensive discussions on ways to intensify our engagement,” said Swaraj.
To buttress a strong case for India-Central Asia Dialogue, she pointed to the joint efforts of India, Iran and Afghanistan for the development of the Chabahar Port in Iran as a viable route to connect to Afghanistan and potentially to Central Asia bypassing Pakistan which has refused to grant land transit to India to access Afghanistan.
Swaraj said India has put forward several proposals towards enhancing our cultural cooperation and training programmes for capacity building for candidates from Central Asia.
She expressed India’s readiness to host the next India-Central Asia Dialogue with the participation of Afghanistan at the Foreign Ministers’ level in India in 2020.