ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Engaging with Central Asia

India’s engagement with central Asia is going beyond the need of oil and gas.

Over the last couple of months a number of Indian government delegations have been engaging with the central Asian states (cas). The visit of Hamid Ansari, the Indian vice-president, to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the meeting in Islamabad of officials from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Turkmenistan regarding the pipeline that would bring Turkmen gas to south Asia, as also the Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s visit to India, assume significance, beyond the need of oil and gas, in the shaping of India’s foreign policy vis-a-vis the region. It is obvious that energy supplies are a crucial component of the spate of activities between India and “greater” central Asia (CA) – which besides the five post-Soviet states includes Afghanistan and the Caspian basin. Being a part of India’s “extended strategic neighbourhood” it is to be expected that this region will gain attention in India’s foreign policy.

CA with its location in the speedily integrating Eurasian space has assumed added economic significance. The United States (US), the European Union, Russia, China, Pakistan and India are all vying for the right to build huge pipelines to get the oil and enormous natural gas reserves out of CA. But interests are divergent regarding developing and creating access to the energy resources, as they compete for the principal transit corridors and the associated economic benefits. Russia’s interest is in maintaining its transport monopoly and privileged access to CA’s energy. Europe and the us want an energy transport route towards the west through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. China is interested in developing the pipeline infrastructure towards the east, and India and Pakistan are keen to tap CA’s hydrocarbon resources towards the south. “Pipeline politics” has led to rivalries among the competing nations. The tense interplay of geopolitics, geoeconomics and regional proximity to Afghanistan has given rise to increasing military presence.

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