India-Central Asia Relations - August 2017

General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Indian Army Staff (COAS) visited Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan from 01-06 Aug 2017 with a high level military delegation.

In Kazakhstan from 01-03 August 2017, General Rawat met Defence Minister, Chairman of the National Security Committee, Vice Minister of Defence and Aerospace Industry along with Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces of Kazakhstan. He also visited the elite Air Assault Brigade and National Defence University at Astana where he inaugurated the Indian Military Art Room. Both sides agreed to take forward the joint exercise which is to be held at Bakloh, Himachal Pradesh in November 2017. Gen Rawat conveyed Indian support for deployment of Kazakhstan in UN peacekeeping operations. Kazakhstan further sought assistance for capacity enhancement in areas of counter insurgency operations, military education and training of cadets in India. COAS assured them of whole-hearted support. He complimented Kazakh Army for its professionalism.

Visit to Turkmenistan from 04-05 August 2017, was particularly significant as General Rawat became the first Chief of Indian Army to visit the country. He met Minister of Defence & Secretary, National Security Council, First Deputy Minister & Chief of Gen Staff along with Commanders of Land, Naval, Air & Air Defence Forces of Turkmenistan. The delegation visited the prestigious Military Institute & Military Academy of Turkmenistan which train officers of the Turkmenistan Armed Forces for higher/ senior appointments in various services. He appreciated the excellent infrastructure of the institute and offered all possible assistance in further adding value to the establishment. The visit was designed to enhance cooperation in pursuance of Defence Cooperation Agreement signed between the two countries during the visit of Prime Minister Modi in July, 2015.

This visit was another outreach initiative to engage with India's extended neighbourhood, strengthen existing defence cooperation with the two nations and explore possibilities of India expanding its strategic footprint in Central Asia. India aspires to create a market for its defense equipment in Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan after the Chabahar port becomes operational in the near future.

India is keen on developing Chabahar Port in Iran and is hopeful of starting operations by 2018 as it seeks to speed up the project to get strategic connectivity to Central Asia and beyond, bypassing Pakistan. India stated that civil construction work had already started with support of Indian and foreign contractors. Government of India had allocated Rs 6 billion for development of the port. Out of this, tenders worth Rs 380 crore for equipment have already been finalised. New Delhi last year agreed to provide provision and operationalisation of credit of $150 million from EXIM Bank for development of Chabahar Port. India will equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.

A delegation from Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry visited Kazakhstan to hold discussions with Kazakh entrepreneurs to expand cooperation.

 

August 17, 2017

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About the Author

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar belongs to the Indian Foreign Service and has acquitted his responsibilities in the diplomatic service for 34 years. He was Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia and has worked in senior diplomatic positions in Indian Embassies/Missions in Washington DC, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva, Tehran, Dhaka and Bangkok and also at Headquarters in India. He negotiated for India in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and in negotiations for India-EU, India-ASEAN and India-Thailand Free Trade Agreements.

He contributed significantly to strengthening strategic ties and promoting cultural cooperation between India and USA, EU, Russia and other countries.Ambassador Sajjanhar worked as head of National Foundation for Communal Harmony to promote amity and understanding between different religions, faiths and beliefs. Ambassador Sajjanhar has been decorated by Governments of Kazakhstan and Latvia with their National Awards and by Universal Peace Federation with Title of ''Ambassador of Peace.'' Currently Ambassador Sajjanhar is President of Institute of Global Studies, New Delhi. He writes, travels and speaks extensively on issues relating to international relations, foreign policy and themes of contemporary relevance and significance. He appears widely on TV panel discussions. Ambassador Sajjanhar is interested in reading, music and travelling. His wife Madhu is an economist and an educationist. They have a son and a daughter both of who are accomplished singers. Their son passed out of Yale University and their daughter is pursuing her PhD at University of Minnesota.