External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj participated in SCO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Beijing. At end of Meeting, a commitment was given by member countries Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to work together toward connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with each country’s development program. Except for India, all participants ‘’reaffirmed support for China’s Belt and Road proposal.” 

Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman participated in 15th meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's (SCO) Defence Ministers on 23rd-24th April, in Beijing. She confirmed India’s strong participation in SCO ‘Peace Mission 2018’ joint military exercises being held in Russia later this year. She said that cooperation in SCO framework will help further strengthen India's bilateral defence ties in the region. This will be the first time that India and Pakistan will participate in a multi-nation counter-terror exercise though armies of the two countries have earlier worked together in UN peacekeeping missions. During the meeting, participants reaffirmed working together to counter new challenges and threats, as well as ensuring that peace, stability and security in the region remain priorities for SCO member states. India is keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.

Rashid Alimov, Secretary General of SCO paid a two-day visit to Delhi, a month ahead of the forthcoming SCO Summit in Qingdao, China on 9th-10th June, 2018 and met EAM, Ministers of Commerce and Culture to discuss issues that will be deliberated upon at the Summit.

A delegation from Central Election Commission (CEC) of Kazakhstan visited New Delhi on a study tour. Delegation met with officials of Election Commission of India and representatives of India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM). Both sides discussed the use of electronic voting machines, online voter registration, cyber security, training of electoral trainers etc. Indian side demonstrated work of the portal providing services to voters and an Internet resource for observers of the Electoral Commission.

A peacekeeping unit from Kazakhstan visited India to receive training and briefing on operational coordination for deployment as part of UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Officers and servicemen of Kazakhstan peacekeeping battalion "Kazbat" and their Indian counterparts acquired skills and knowledge of requirements for UN peacekeeping units.

Uzbekistan expressed interest in furthering business and trade ties with Punjab, particularly in areas of agriculture, education and tourism. Uzbek ambassador to India met Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and discussed cooperation in areas of mutual interest for mutual benefit. Chief Minister suggested export of various commodities, including wheat and rice, to Uzbekistan, pointing out that the direct air connectivity between Uzbekistan and Amritsar (Punjab) offered vast potential for trade promotion. Uzbek Ambassador said Uzbekistan is keen to utilise the air route to further bolster trade in fresh fruits, such as mulberry, apricot and peaches, as well as dry fruits that are organically produced in Uzbekistan. Discussions on promotion of religious and heritage tourism were also held including of Bukhara, which the first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev was believed to have visited, and other historical sites of interest to the Sikh community. Uzbekistan expressed keen interest in supplying fertilisers to Punjab. Opening of Chabahar port would result in another route for boosting Uzbekistan’s trade with India. Uzbekistan suggested establishment of a joint hospital, as a private sector enterprise, in Tashkent.

Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan who took part in International Conference "Countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism" in Dushanbe, Tajikistan met with the Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar in Dushanbe and discussed the forthcoming state visit of President of Uzbekistan to India. Situation in Afghanistan and bilateral cooperation under SCO were discussed.

Uzbek President sent a message of condolences to President Ram Nath Kovind on the death and destruction in North India due to the unprecedented dust storms recently.

Indian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Prabhat Kumar met Mayor of Karaganda City and discussed strengthening of cooperation between India and Karaganda in various sectors including economy and culture. He also met Director of Regional Chamber of Entrepreneurs “Atameken” and discussed participation of Indian and Kazakh companies in trade fairs and exhibitions in each other’s country. He met Rector of Karaganda State Medical University and visited various facilities in the university.

India has identified Kazakhstan for increasing export of tropical fruits. APEDA will promote export of Indian varieties of mango, pineapple and banana. The move could open other markets in the region also. Mango varieties would be chosen from across the country, pineapples would be transported from Sikkim.

A tax treaty protocol between India and Kazakhstan which updates the countries’ December 1996 tax treaty, allowing for relief from double taxation in transfer pricing cases entered into force. The new protocol updates the existing treaty’s provisions on exchange of information for tax purposes.

Kazakhstan has introduced a 72-hour visa-free regime for Indian nationals transiting through international airports of Astana and Almaty by Kazakhstan airlines up to 31st December, 2018. This initiative is expected to promote tourism and strengthen people-to-people exchanges between India and Kazakhstan. 

A six-member delegation from India led by Ambassador P.S. Raghavan, Convenor, National Security Advisory Board visited Kazakhstan to attend the XII SCO Forum in Astana. Delegations from SCO member states, observer states and dialogue partners attended the Forum. A broad exchange of views on role and significance of SCO in new geopolitical realities and prospects for further development of Organization took place.

Customs officials arrested 28 Turkmenistani nationals, including 22 women, for smuggling gold worth about Rs 5 crore at Delhi airport. The seizure was done in two cases. It was unclear whether the arrest was linked to three men — aged 29, 38 and 45 and holding passports from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan — who were arrested in northern Sweden and Stockholm's northern suburbs on suspected terror-related activities.

 

May 30, 2018

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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.