Towards the end of the first week of July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi left on an important busy agenda that would take up a whole week of his time. His itinerary was jam-packed with visits to Central Asian countries and many meetings to attend.
Though this might seem like a whirlwind of an activity, the ever dynamic Mr. Modi has managed to sign almost twenty new agreements with the Central Asian nations while focusing on cooperative development.
Agreements with Uzbekistan
Mr. Modi signed agreements focusing on tourism and cultural cooperation with Uzbekistan.
Many of the cities in Central Asia were a part of the famous Silk Route, historically the most important link between the East and the West. Having played host to this route, it is evident that this region has witnessed several important historical changes and hence, was a hotbed for cultural, artistic and architectural innovations. Even after several centuries, these places are frequented by tourists. It makes good sense that there lies enormous potential in tourism and cultural relations with these nations in Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan.
Agreements with Kazakhstan
Of 5 agreements with Kazakhstan, the most important ones are in the areas of defence, transport and atomic energy.
An agreement on Defence and Military – Technical Cooperation was signed with Kazakhstan. The armed forces of Kazakhstan were established in its current form only in 1992. With a need for more training and funds, Kazakhstan’s positive relationship with India can be expected to help Kazakhstan’s relatively new armed forces more than that of India.
The MoU on Technical Cooperation in the field of Railways is also noteworthy. With one of the world’s largest rail network and being one of the world’s largest commercial/utility employers, Indian Railways is a relatively more experienced when it comes to railway service and management. But Kazakhstan’s rail system was constructed in the Soviet era. The rail routes ignored inter-soviet borders and were constructed to the requirements of Soviet planning. Moreover, some of the routes even pass through Russian territory. Thus, the new MoU can also be expected to help Kazakhstan more than India.
The most important agreement is the long-term contract on the sale and purchase of natural uranium concentrates between India and Kazakhstan. This contract is preceded by the agreement signed between the two countries in January 2009 regarding the supply of Uranium to India. With 12% of the world’s uranium resources and an expanding mining industry, Kazakhstan is the leading producer of Uranium in the world. The production is growing at a phenomenal speed. With Russia and China as major buyers of Kazakhstan’s Uranium, it is always a good option for India to maintain a good relationship with Kazakhstan.
BRICS meets in Russia
The seventh BRICS summit, held at Ufa in Russia, saw the coming together of the leaders of several countries to discuss on the topic “BRICS Partnership – a Powerful Factor of Global Development”. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Union were also present at this summit and hence, makes this an important meeting in contemporary times. Discussions on several important aspects of development were held.
The main agenda of the summit was achieved when the participating nations of BRICS decided to lend in their own local currencies to the New Development Bank starting April 2016. The New Development Bank (formerly ‘BRICS Development Bank’) was set up in July last year as an alternative to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund where the USA has a major influence. It’s main focus is on the emerging markets of the 5 participant nations.
Agreements with Turkmenistan
Seven new agreements were signed with Turkmenistan. Other than cooperation in the fields of tourism, Sports, Yoga and Defence, the noteworthy MoUs are those related to the supply of chemical products and cooperation in Science and Technology.
Largely a desert country with huge gas and oil resources, Turkmenistan is a major source for petrochemicals. Potash fertilisers, urea (carbamide) and ammonia make up a sizeable percentage of chemical exports. Thus, the MoU with Turkmen State concern ‘Turkmenhimiya’ for supply of Chemical products is well thought.
With the new Space Programme approved by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow in 2011, the Science and Technology sector of Turkmenistan has now got a shot in its arm. There is much for Turkmenistan to gain from the MoU with India on Science and Technology.
Agreements with Kyrgyz Republic
The four agreements signed with Kyrgyz Republic include those in cooperation in Defence as well as culture. However, the MoUs in the field of Elections and sphere of Standards stand out.
Having declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, this country has faced several threats to administrative stability. The MoU with India is expected to help Kyrgyz with establishing a sound election administrating system.
According the Ministry of External Affairs, the MoU and cooperation on the Sphere of Standards are aimed to “strengthen and enhance technical cooperation in the fields of standardization, conformity assessment and sharing of expertise on mutual trade with the aim of exchanging necessary information and expertise” between India and Kyrgyz.
Agreements with Tajikistan
Finally, the 2 agreements signed with Tajikistan aim at the fields of Culture and Infrastructure. The country, having faced a civil war from 1992 to 1997, has a slowly growing economy. India’s agreements to have cultural relations and also set up computer labs in 37 schools come as a boost to Tajikistan’s citizens.
Mr. Modi’s current expedition to the North completes a full circle after his directional policies of ‘Act East’, ‘Link West’ and the Indian Ocean diplomacy in the South.