Modi to host first India-Central Asia summit on January 27
The central government on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host the maiden India-Central Asia Summit virtually on January 27. The presidents of the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan will attend the summit. All five heads of state were invited as chief guests for India's Republic Day. But due to COVID-19, the event will have no foreign chief guests.
- The summit will be the first high-level meeting between India and the Central Asian countries.
- Three of the five countries—Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—share borders with Afghanistan, where the Taliban's takeover in August last year has alarmed India.
- According to the MEA, the summit reflects India's growing involvement with Central Asian countries as a part of the "Extended Neighborhood" policy.
In 2015, Modi visited all the Central Asian countries, the MEA said in a statement. It added that there have been high-level bilateral and multilateral meetings after the visit. "The inception of the India-Central Asia Dialogue at Foreign Ministers' level, the 3rd meeting of which was held in New Delhi from 18-20 December 2021, has provided an impetus to India-Central Asia relations," it read.
The leaders are expected to discuss strategies to elevate India-Central Asia relations to new heights during the maiden India-Central Asia Summit. An open discussion is expected about worldwide issues, particularly the rapidly changing security situation. "The summit is symbolic of the importance attached by the Leaders of India and the Central Asian countries to a comprehensive and enduring India-Central Asia partnership," said the MEA.
Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan are three of the five countries that share land borders with China. Notably, India has been locked in a conflict with China in eastern Ladakh since 2020. Additionally, China has heavily invested in Central Asia in the last 30 years. The aim of the summit is to counter the growing influence of China in Central Asia.
India and Central Asia's relationship has deepened over time. The two sides have intensified their discussions in areas such as trade and connectivity, economic development, etc. Notably, during the third India-Central Asia Dialogue held last year in New Delhi, both sides had underlined the urgent need to foster peace, stability, and long-term shared economic prosperity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has now disrupted Republic Day celebrations for the second year in a row. The quick spread of the Omicron variant and recent violent protests in Kazakhstan have pushed against the participation of the Central Asian leaders. Due to the outbreak of the virus in Britain, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to cancel his visit last year.