India eyes to become Big Brother of EXIM in Central Asia

After strategically fostering trade relations with the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit for the second time on June 13-14. Modi’s focus will be on seamless connectivity for the landlocked region, forging counter terror partnerships and tapping unexplored markets.

India’s bilateral trade with Central Asia stands at about $2 billion and with Russia about $10 billion in 2017. In contrast, China’s trade with Russia has crossed $100 billion in 2018 while the bilateral figures for Central Asia stand at over $50 billion. The lack of connectivity has also hampered the development of energy ties between the hydrocarbon-rich region and India.

As ORF article suggests, if India is not able to exploit the economic potential of the region, its inclusion into an organisation that covers 42 per cent of the world population and 20 per cent of the GDP will be a missed opportunity. The opening of Chabahar port and entry into Ashgabat agreement should be utilized for a stronger presence in Eurasia besides a clear focus on operationalising INSTC.

India’s efforts in the area, highlighting the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), the Ashgabat Agreement, the Chabahar port and India-Myanmar-Thailand highway. On the other hand, the Pakistani foreign minister focused on CPEC and its role in the region. While India has made its opposition to BRI clear, all other SCO members have embraced the Chinese project.

“Once again we congratulate Prime Minister Modi. President Xi and Prime Minister Modi are good friends. They had very successful informal summit at Wuhan last year,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui told a media briefing. He also said the China-US trade war and the “spectre” of emerging trade frictions between the US and India could become important part of the discussions between the two leaders.

PM Modi at the SCO in 2018 had reiterated the importance of economic development and connectivity. However, there are differences over the idea of connectivity being put forth by different SCO members.

The Modi government is working on building wider partnerships with nations of central Asia and Eurasia through existing and new initiatives, create effective partnerships on counter-terror and de-radicalisation measures and seek access to untapped markets of Russia and Eurasia, ET reported.

India has proposed setting up of an ‘India-Central Asia Development Group’ at the maiden India-Central Asia Foreign Minister’s dialogue in Samarkand. Modi had visited all central Asian states in 2015 in what was the first such endeavour by an Indian PM. He will take this spirit forward when he meets central Asian leaders in Bishkek.

Development partnership has emerged as an important component of India’s engagement abroad. 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, then Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had announced at the Dialogue comprising foreign ministers all five Central Asian states and Afghanistan held in Samarkhand in January.

The SCO is a China-led eight-member economic and security bloc. Its founding members include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted as members in 2017.

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