India-Central Asia Relations - October 2017

India and Kazakhstan decided during the thirteenth 2-day meeting of Inter-Governmental Commission to strengthen cooperation in hydrocarbons and nuclear energy sectors, and also expand the International North-South Transport Corridor by linking it to the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran rail link. India’s Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Kazakh Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev co-chaired the meeting. The two sides discussed "ideas for stepping up cooperation in energy sector, trade, economic, investment, transport and connectivity, agriculture, information technology, space, healthcare and cultural spheres." Kazakhstan invited Indian investments in several sectors, especially in hydrocarbons, infrastructure, nuclear energy, co-production of films, food processing and information technology.

Addressing a meeting of foreign ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on sidelines of UN General Assembly in New York, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and said that there can be no justification for any act of terrorism. She also emphasized connectivity with member nations. The Joint Statement said: "The foreign ministers reiterated their opposition to any 'double standards' vis-à-vis terrorists and any attempt to interfere in other countries' internal affairs or to undermine the leading roles of competent departments of the countries in the name of counter-terrorism."

Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited Turkmenistan for a day on 17th September to attend the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. 172 athletes represented India in 13 disciplines at this event. Ashgabat is first city in the former Soviet Central Asian region which won the right to host the Asian Indoor Games.

India’s EXIM bank is still awaiting complete application form from Iran for disbursement of $150 million loans even after 15 months of signing the loan contract. Iran's delay is being seen by some as a tactic to pressurize India not to collaborate with US on Afghan peace process, given the strained US-Iran relations. Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari has stated that his priority is to complete work on Chabahar on time which will allow India to overcome lack of land access to Central Asia and Russia.

India and members of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) discussed plans to deepen practical cooperation on counter-terrorism at 31st meeting of Council of Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of SCO (SCO-RATS) held in Beijing. The meeting discussed topical issues of international and regional security as well as deepening practical cooperation of SCO members in fight against terrorism.

Uzbek Ambassador to India declared establishment of a Special Economic Zone in Uzbekistan especially for Indian pharmaceutical companies which are keen to set up manufacturing facilities in Uzbekistan. He also spoke about simplifying its visa regime and reducing its tourist visa–related administrative fee for visitors. He emphasised on setting up of a waste management base in Uzbekistan along with Indian companies dealing in the same field.

President and CEO of Air Astana Peter Foster named India as a key destination for its business. He said that last year 70,000 passengers flew between India and Kazakhstan while 50,000 had already flown till July this year. Airline expects to launch a flight to Mumbai in 2019 and aims to fly from Delhi and Mumbai every day to Astana and Almaty, operating up to 21 flights a week. Air Astana has been urging Kazakh authorities for an easier visa-regime for Indian passport holders.

61 Indian construction workers were expelled from Kazakhstan for "disciplinary" violations following a mass brawl in Astana. The altercation took place between Indian and Kazakh workers at construction site of the Abu Dhabi Plaza high-rise tower project.

Indian pavilion at Expo-17 in Astana, Kazakhstan depicting the country's achievements in field of solar energy was a major attraction. Theme of exhibition was to make the world pollution free by using alternative energy. India placed itself in list of top five most-visited pavilions in the expo.


October 17, 2017

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About the Author

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar

Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia; President, Institute of Global Studies and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre

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.