India- Central Asia

  • IASbaba
  • February 7, 2022
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

India- Central Asia

Context: The inaugural India-Central Asia Summit, the India-Central Asia Dialogue, and the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in New Delhi — all held over the past four months — collectively indicate a renewed enthusiasm to engage the Central Asian region.

What factors are pushing for India’s renewed e?

  • Great power dynamics: The decline of American power in the broader region (due primarily to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan) has led to a reassertion by China and Russia seeking to fill the power vacuum. 
    • India must ensure that there is no China-led strategic gang up with Pakistan and Taliban against India in the region would severely damage Indian interests.
    • It is therefore necessary for India to go for more proactive engagement in the region to safeguard its own interests.
  • Non-engagement is costlier: India has limited economic and other stakes in the region, primarily due to lack of physical access. The gains from an engagement of Central Asia may be minimal but the disadvantages of non-engagement could be costly in the longer run in the context of great power dynamics.
  • India-Russia Power Dynamics: Russia considers India to be a useful partner in the region as it not only wins back New Delhi, which is moving towards the U.S., but also subtly checkmates the rising Chinese influence in its backyard. 
    • As for China, India’s engagement of the region and the growing warmth in India-Russia relations are not a cause for concern yet, but they could be eventually.
  • Consolidates post-American Afghan policy: U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has landed India in a tough spot as India has very limited space to engage Taliban 2.0. By forging better ties with Central Asia, India can devise new ways of engaging with Taliban.

How can Iran play a role in India’s engagement with Central Asian region?

  • India’s best shot at reaching the CARs is by using a hybrid model – via sea to Chabahar and then by road/rail through Iran (and Afghanistan) to the CARs. 
  • If the re-negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (or the Iran nuclear deal) is a success, it would bring Iran back into the Western fold and away from China (and Russia), which will be favourable to India.
  • While Iran getting close to the West is not preferred by Russia (but preferred by India), but India would be able to use it to its advantage and join Russia in engaging the CARs.

What are the challenges which India could face?

  • China, which shares a land border with the Central Asia region, is already a major investor there. China is the region’s most important economic partner, a reality that worries Russia and sharpens India’s relative irrelevance in the region.
  • Given the India’s diplomatic energies spent on immediate neighbourhood & on great powers, the other challenges include the lack of political will, material capability and diplomatic wherewithal to stay the course in the region.

Connecting the dots:

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